African governments are meeting at the ADEA Triennale in Mauritius to discuss solutions as a new report shows that, while all children are born to learn, those in Africa are five times less likely to learn the basics than children elsewhere.
The ability of education systems in the continent to “ensure even rudimentary literacy skills” for their students has declined in 4 out of 10 African countries over the last three decades.
The findings are published in the first of a three-part series of Spotlight reports on foundational learning in Africa called Born to learn, published by the Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report at UNESCO, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and the African Union.
The continental report draws from five accompanying country reports developed in partnership with ministries of education covering the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal and a series of case studies from various African regions.
“Africa has a complex past that has left parts of it with linguistic fragmentation, conflict, poverty and malnutrition that have weighed heavily on the education systems’ ability to ensure universal primary completion and foundational learning. Our partnership is shining a spotlight on this issue together with education ministries to help find solutions that work. The social and economic consequences of low learning outcomes are devastating for Africa. This report’s findings give us the chance to find a new way forward, learning from each other,” the Executive Secretary of ADEA, Albert Nsengiyumva said.
The report finds that, in addition to socio-economic challenges, the limited availability of good quality textbooks, lack of proper teacher support, inadequate teacher training and provision of teacher guides, limited progress in the introduction of home languages in teaching and insufficient school feeding programmes, are key factors that have resulted in poor learning outcomes in sub-Saharan Africa.
Yet, recent interventions show that progress is possible if efforts are focused on classroom practices that are informed by evidence. These positive practices highlighted in the report and other experiences are to feed into a peer-learning mechanism on foundational learning hosted by the AU that has been launched alongside this report, the Leveraging Education Analysis for Results Network (LEARN), building on the “Continental Education Strategy” for Africa clusters.
African Union Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Mohammed Belhocine, says, “The pandemic has thwarted our efforts to ensure all children have fundamental skills in reading and mathematics. This is why a focus on basic education within our continental strategy’s policy dialogue platform is warranted.
The work of the new LEARN network on basic education within the AU launched this week will draw from the experiences of countries that have taken part in the Spotlight report series”
According to Director of the GEM Report, Manos Antoninis, “every child is born to learn, but they will not do so if they are hungry, if they don’t have a textbook to learn from, if they don’t understand.”