A call to African Leaders to invest in people and make education a priority

Commemorating International Day of Education: A message of solidarity from the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA)

Today is International Education Day, a day set aside by the United Nations in 2018 to advocate for quality education and the importance of learning in addressing global learning challenges. The theme for this year’s celebration is "Investing in people, making education a priority". On this day, ADEA joins global education stakeholders in advocacy and solidarity to draw attention to the learning crisis facing Africa.

The 2022 UNESCO/GEM report estimates that 244 million children and youth of school age are out of school globally. At 40%, Africa accounts for 98 million of this population, which is the highest in the world. This situation, further worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic, presents a serious barrier to Africa’s desire for accelerated development.

Building on the global momentum generated by the United Nations Transforming Education Summit in September 2022 and driven by the continental focus at the ADEA Triennale on Education in October 2022, this year's International Day of Education calls for political mobilisation around education to chart a course for translating the commitments and initiatives endorsed by leaders at these two events into action.

At ADEA, we recognise the need for urgency to address this situation, especially at the foundational level. The 2022 Spotlight Report highlighted that one in five primary school-age children in sub-Saharan Africa is out of school; still nearly as high as in 1990, showing very little progress. Equally, only two in three children in the region complete primary school by age 15. Among those who do, only 3 in 10 achieve the minimum proficiency level in reading, meaning that barely one in five children do so.

Africa needs to develop the minds and capacities of its young ones to stand a chance at addressing other development goals. With this crisis-level data in mind and recognizing that education is the right of every child, ADEA has made foundational learning one of its priority areas in 2023, in line with some of the key recommendations from the 2022 Triennale.

For instance, we have constituted the Africa Foundational Learning (FL) Coalition, composed of eight Ministers of Education committed to implementing robust changes at the foundational level and who are willing to share their results and lessons on what works. Also, ADEA and GEMR will be completing the second Spotlight Report on foundational learning, focused on synthesizing evidence on completion rates and minimum levels of learning proficiency in Africa. This second synthesis report will draw on country reports from Angola, Mauritania, Niger, South Africa, Uganda and Zambia and propose recommendations and key actions to support policy dialogue through established peer learning mechanisms such as the African Union’s LEARN peer learning mechanism on basic education.

In addition to the above, we will continue to deploy our capacity to convene policymakers for consultative engagements, develop and review toolkits that support other domains of education including higher education and scientific research, technical and vocational skills development, and digitalization and ICT for education.

These are some of the efforts we are making in conjunction with our partners and stakeholders to contribute to resilient education systems in Africa by promoting equitable access to quality education at all levels, investing in people and ensuring education remains a top priority for the continent.

Education is a human right. Therefore, let us work together so that no person is left behind. From all of us at ADEA, we wish you a Happy International Day of Education!