Spotlight on the GPE Knowledge and Innovation Exchange Observatory on COVID-19 Responses in Educational Systems in Africa

Abidjan/Ouagadougou, 25 November 2020 – The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the African Union’s International Centre for Girls’ and Women’s Education in Africa (AU/CIEFFA) have officially launched the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) Knowledge and Innovation Exchange (KIX) Observatory on COVID-19 responses in the educational systems in Africa. 

The KIX Observatory serves as a one-stop-shop for tracking information and evidence about COVID-19 policies and practices responses in primary and secondary education to inform policies and best practices in 41 GPE partner countries in Africa, as jointly highlighted during the welcome remarks and introduction session of the meeting by the moderator Mr. Albert Nsengyiumva, ADEA Executive Secretary and Dr. Rita Bissoonauth, Head of mission of AU/CIEFFA in their respective interventions.

Held on 17th November and facilitated by the African Development Bank, the virtual launch moderated by Mr. Albert Nsengyiumva attracted around 200 educational stakeholders. The event was graced by Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, the African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, Ministers of Education from Côte d’Ivoire, Mozambique, and Rwanda, government representatives, KIX Hub country focal points, and development partners (e.g. GPE, IDRC, UNICEF, UNESCO, and USAID) among many others.  Also present were representatives from the private sector, academia and research institutions, civil society organizations, youth, and the media. 

The meeting generated interesting discussions around the latest efforts and strategies being undertaken towards school reopening and in particular on (i) teacher preparation and support as well as (ii) learner safety and wellbeing.  Special attention was given to showcase how countries have addressed issues related to gender, equity, inclusion, and resilience of education systems in the face of possible future pandemics or crises.

In her opening remarks while launching the Observatory and speaking, Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, the African Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, commended the Consortium comprising of ADEA and AU/CIEFFA with the technical support from UNESCO-UIS for materializing this crucial Observatory, funded by KIX. Moreover, she encouraged countries and development partners to contribute to this initiative for knowledge creation and information sharing. She also insisted on the fact that “The fight against COVID-19 requires an inclusive, participatory approach of a country’s population with a special attention to specific needs of the most vulnerable especially women children and elders as the most affected people in our countries”. She also re-iterated and that “COVID-19 provides an opportune moment to re-think education systems and to build back better with greater innovation.”

Ms. Margarita Focas Licht, Chief for Effective Partnerships at GPE, stressed the urgency, magnitude and scale of the current pandemic and commended governments for their record-setting crisis response strategies to address COVID-19’s impact on education. She highlighted GPE’s rapid mobilization of over US$500 million for COVID-19 response, including 66 grants for US$467 million to partner countries. She emphasized the importance of making evidence available to governments as they seek to strengthen education system resilience and to support learning continuity; address negative consequences of school closures; and prepare for safe school re-opening. Finally, she welcomed this important partnership with ADEA, AU CIEFFA and UIS to build the knowledge foundations we need to overcome the current crisis and ensure that we are better equipped to provide quality education to all children when the next crisis hits.    

Mr. Shem Bodo, ADEA Senior Programs Officer, presented the KIX Observatory to the audience stressing  that the Observatory will use a gender, inclusion and equity lens to collect, analyze, and track policies and practice interventions aimed at mitigating the challenges of COVID-19 in the education systems. The generated information and evidence will be used to inform policy decisions and the development of intervention plans, guidelines, and practices in GPE member countries in Africa. He also appealed to countries and partners to support and contribute to the KIX Observatory in order to give visibility and credibility to promising practices produced by the African continent and also to push countries to adopt a peer learning approach as this contributes to strengthen capacity-building and generate innovative ideas.

Ms. Simone Yankey-Ouattara, AU/CIEFFA Senior Policy Officer, delivered a key presentation where she highlighted main selected practices and interventions of GPE African Member States in response to the pandemic related closures. Ms Yankey underlined that additional months of lockdown could lead to heightened risks of psycho-emotional, physical and health consequences affecting both teachers and learners, especially young women and girls. The latter are a higher risk of gender-based violence, rape, teenage pregnancy, child marriage. She enumerated examples of African countries ensuring continued learning as well as ensuring psycho-social support, health and protection services. She encouraged all the countries to share policies and practices as well as evidence especially for the most vulnerable and marginalized groups. 

In his intervention, Mr. Gaspard Twagirayezu, Rwanda’s Minister of State in charge of Primary and Secondary Education mentioned that they have designed a school transportation plan that consists of areas reserved for students only, in order to safely get on and off the school bus by respecting common rules (i.e. wash stations, sanitation, wearing of masks, social distancing). This solution will allow learners to avoid potential crowded areas like the normal public bus stations. Ms. Kandia Camara, Minister of National Education, Technical Education and Vocational Training of Côte d’Ivoire not only welcomed the creation of the GPE KIX Observatory but also underscored all the progress her country made in terms of remote learning thanks to strategic partnerships with the private sector and development partners. Lastly, Mr. Abel Assis, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education and Human Development of Mozambique underscored the work carried out in his country with a particular focus on strategies related to teacher training, gender, distance learning, inclusion (i.e. Sign language educational TV shows) and well-being.    

Dr. Dimitri Sanga, Director of the UNESCO Regional Office in Dakar, Dr. Silvia Montoya, Director of UNESCO - Institute for Statistics (UIS), Ms. Nina Weisenhorn, Senior Advisor, Education in Crisis & Conflict, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Mr. Abhiyan Rana, Regional Education Adviser for UNICEF East and Southern Africa shared their initiatives supporting governments in tackling the COVID-19 pandemic, such as the Global Education Coalition, the Return to Learn Kit, and the Framework for Reopening Schools. Lastly, they all reiterated with one voice that sharing lessons and best practices can help African countries strengthen their reopening plans and improve a safer return to in-person learning for all children.

In her closing remarks Dr. Rita Bissoonauth urged AU Member states to support the efforts of the consortium. 

“We count on you AU Member States to collaborate and support us in the consortium which comprises of ADEA, the AU/CIEFFA and UIS on collecting data, best policies and practices for our Observatory to be successful and useful.” Dr. Bissoonauth urged. She further highlighted the importance of continued support and partnerships in the collection and sharing of disaggregated data and evidence with key stakeholders including civil society organizations, development partners and Member states, for the KIX Observatory to successfully support and guide decision-making on the continent. 

The Observatory is part of GPE’s KIX, a joint initiative with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). The goal of KIX is to strengthen national education systems and accelerate educational progress in the Global South by filling knowledge gaps, increasing access to evidence, and strengthening systems to support the generation and uptake of evidence and innovations in GPE partner countries.

To learn more about the KIX Observatory, kindly contact:

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About ADEA

The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) is the voice of education in Africa and a key network of Education Ministries. It plays a significant role in the education space as a convener, knowledge creator and forum for policy dialogue, working through its Inter-Country Quality Nodes (ICQNs) and the Task Force on Education Management and Policy Support. ADEA contributes to the empowerment of African countries to develop quality education and training systems that respond to the countries' emergent needs and drive social and economic transformation sustainably. http://www.adeanet.org

About AU/CIEFFA

The African Union International Centre for Girls and Women’s Education in Africa (AU/CIEFFA) is a specialized institution of the African Union under the Department of Human Resources, Science and Technology. The Centre aims to promote girls’ and women’s education with a view towards their full participation in the eradication of poverty and the edification of a peaceful world for sustainable human development. http://www.cieffa.org

About UNESCO-UIS

The UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) is the official and trusted source of internationally-comparable data on education, science, culture and communication. As the official statistical agency of UNESCO, the UIS produces a wide range of indicators in UNESCO’s fields of action by working with national statistical offices, line ministries and other statistical organizations. The UIS Director serves as the Organization’s chief statistician. http://uis.unesco.org

About GPE

GPE is a shared commitment to ending the world’s learning crisis. We mobilize partners and funds to support 76 lower-income countries to transform their education systems so that every girl and boy can get the quality education they need to unlock their full potential and contribute to building a better world. GPE is currently calling on world leaders to “Raise Your Hand” and pledge at least $5 billion for the next five years to help GPE transform education in up to 87 countries, which are home to more than 1 billion children. https://www.globalpartnership.org

About IDRC

IDRC is a Canadian Crown corporation that collaboratively works with researchers from the developing world in search for their own solutions for building healthier, more equitable, and more prosperous societies. IDRC achieves this by providing developing-country researchers with financial resources, advice, and training to help them find solutions to local problems, encouraging knowledge sharing with policymakers, researchers, and communities around the world, and fostering new talent by offering fellowships and awards. https://www.idrc.ca/