Education stakeholders across Africa, including ministers, ministerial representatives and partners, convened virtually on Thursday, 7 September 2023 and took stock of country-level progress one year after the commitments made at the Transforming Education Summit (TES) and the ADEA 2022 Triennale. Speakers at the virtual event, convened by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and Human Capital Africa (HCA), agreed to prioritise evidence-based and contextually relevant interventions and support countries in scaling initiatives with proven results.
Foundational learning outcomes in Africa are below par. The 2022 Spotlight report from the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report (GEM-R) and ADEA revealed that 89% of school-aged children in Africa who are enrolled in schools are unable to read basic texts by the age of 10. This stark reality calls for urgency, as it has far-reaching negative implications for the future prospects of these children and the continent. In response to this challenge, ADEA and HCA convened various stakeholders and partners, leveraging side events at global and continental fora, including TES and the Triennale, to engage with countries on this result and the need to urgently address it.
The ministerial declaration following the Triennale resulted in the establishment of the African Foundational Learning Ministerial Coalition, comprising Ministers from 12 African countries who committed to making critical changes. Additionally, HCA launched its Learning Scorecard to provide countries with a framework to consistently measure their performance and track their progress over time. The first session of the coalition meeting took place earlier in February, when the platform was launched and critical steps for engagement outlined. The second session was an opportunity to share and measure progress and capture lessons from these efforts while setting the stage for a continued push.
The event featured case studies from Cote d’Ivoire, Malawi, Mauritius, and Uganda, delivered by their respective Ministers of Education. While opening the event, the Executive Secretary of ADEA, Albert Nsengiyumva, recognized coalition ministers as change agents whose actions must now catalyze other countries to take action.
‘You are all, as you know, members of the coalition, and we need to act as change agents in championing our fellow ministers in Africa to increase the intensity and the spotlight on foundational learning so that we can actually be able to sustain the policy-level salience in all our African countries. This is the only way that foundational learning can be a sure anchor for learning in subsequent levels of education in our continent.’
Outlining the rationale for the forum, the HCA founder, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, believes the forum is an opportunity for peers to work together to push for better learning outcomes at the foundational level, which will help Africa’s development:
“It is important for us to collectively work together. There is something about peers coming together to address this continental issue. Because the truth is, until our children are learning, we are not ready for development. So it is my very deep pleasure to welcome the ministers and the leaders in the education space that have joined us today, and we look forward to hearing from the speakers on our panel over to you.”
In his contribution, the Global Education Director at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Benjamin Piper, underscored the importance of rigorous evidence as a base for resource mobilization.
“We need to center evidence because funding will follow good evidence. As countries consider how to mobilize financial resources, it is important that they understand that evidence that is rigorous and contextually relevant is key to attracting funding. It is also important to prioritize local capacity and expertise, as contextual understanding enables more nuanced evidence and solutions that have a better chance of being sustained.”
Highlights of the event include the status update from Malawi on its efforts to improve foundational learning outcomes. Hon. Madalitso Kambauwa Wirima, the country’s Minister of Education, shared the efforts made in pushing for foundational learning reforms, including a curriculum review, the planned expansion of its school feeding program from 35% to 100%, the digitization of the school system to allow more learners to access education, and the adoption of HCA’s Scorecard tool to measure Malawi’s foundational learning performance and progress towards expected outcomes.
A panel discussion drew insights and lessons from other countries, especially as articulated by panelists including the Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Education, Science, and Technology of Mauritius, Mrs. Leela Devi Luchoomun; Uganda’s Minister of Basic Education, Hon. Joyce Moriku Kaducu; and Prof. Mariatou Kone, Minister of National Education of Côte d’Ivoire. Others included ministerial representatives from Angola, Kenya, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, and The Gambia.
The African Foundational Learning Ministerial Coalition’s work will continue to engage and push FL reforms, with a primary focus on implementing the strategies discussed during the event. These include fostering ongoing collaboration among member countries and monitoring progress closely. A further progress review will take place at the ADEA High-Level Policy Dialogue Forum on Foundational Learning scheduled for the end of October 2023 in Lusaka, Zambia. Together with other ministers, members of the coalition will meet to review progress made and strengthen their work with peer learning sessions and knowledge exchange.
The African Foundational Learning Ministerial Coalition is a collaborative initiative convened by ADEA and HCA. It seeks to combat the pressing challenges faced by the region’s educational systems. This assembly of education leaders and experts aims to exchange best practices, methodologies, and insights to enhance foundational learning and promote inclusivity.