Opening Remarks H.E. Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (ESTI)
AU-UNICEF High Level Side Meeting on ‘Reimagining Education in Africa’
Date: 20th September 2021 Time: 16:00 – 17:30 (Addis Ababa)
Your Excellencies present, Distinguished Ministers of Education from AU Member States, Distinguished representatives of partner organizations, Colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me great pleasure and indeed quite an honour to join you at this High-Level Event on Reimagining Education in Africa.
On behalf of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, and on my own behalf, I welcome you all to this very important virtual meeting. I am delighted to be joined by distinguished participants who are thinking hard about the future of our education systems in Africa, the future of our children and youth.
We owe you all a debt of gratitude for joining the African Union and UNICEF at this event. Our engagement today is geared towards launching The Africa Education Report, an evidence-based overview and recommendations for long term improvements in Education.
The report comes against the backdrop of very challenging times for Education systems especially in Africa where the impacts of COVID-19 threaten to erode decades of development efforts made so far by the Member States, global partners and Education stakeholders.
Prior to emergence of COVID-19, Africa’s education system was already facing crisis in learning, ensuring equity, relevance and affordability. COVID 19 pandemic, has exacerbated the situation and foregrounded deep-seated inequalities in: access, digital connectivity among others, and exposed fault-lines in our education systems.
These are issues that need our urgent attention so that “learning poverty” is checked and learning outcomes for our children and youth enhanced. One of the recommendations from the African Education Report, that I want to highlight is the critical need to invest in developing more resilient education systems. In building resilience, we must ensure: access to education, safeguard quality and equity, and guarantee that education systems function continually under any circumstances, without interruption.
Developing resilience requires strong funding mechanisms and the report calls for Member States to review their fiscal policies and reallocate resources in the education sector more strategically to improve efficiency.
The African Union strongly believes that we must act urgently and now to tackle the common education challenges Africa faces and have been presented in the report. Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen Africa’s Development blueprint Agenda 2063 specifically talks of an aspiration to “catalyze an Education and Skills revolution and actively promote science, technology, research and innovation, with the ultimate aim of building knowledge, human resources, capabilities and skills for Africa’s future.”
It is therefore enlightening that this event has provided a platform for engagement of distinguished thought leaders from the public, private and social sectors seeking mechanisms for recalibrating education systems to achieve the desired education and skills development outcomes.
One of the pillars of The Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25) is the strengthening of capacities through a coalition of actors to enable a credible participatory and solid partnerships in Education. Now more than ever before, a global response and ability to act as an international community are essential for Reimagining Education in Africa.
Implementation of the Continental Education Strategy for Africa and the Sustainable Development Goals - Education 2030 Agenda, requires that all stakeholders work in a coordinated manner and synergizing our actions. It is only then that we can be effective in supporting Member States strengthen their systems and implementation capacities to be truly transformational. This also calls for innovative initiatives to enhance access, relevance, inclusiveness and quality, and of course ownership by the Member States whose education systems are still grappling with the emerging challenges.
In conclusion, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
The strong partnership approach among key education stakeholders will enable us achieve more results, while tapping on each other’s strengths and in alignment with national government priorities and plans.
As learning resumes our attention, investments and efforts are urgently required in the following key priorities:
1. Ensure that the most vulnerable children are back to school and reach the ones who may have dropped out. This also include a renewed attention to learners in fragile and conflict affected countries and regions.
2. Improve the quality of teaching and empower Teachers at all levels with pedagogical practices conducive to active learning as cocreators of knowledge, coaches and mentors. It is imperative that efforts are in place to meet the holistic needs of children and youth, including nutrition, physical and mental health, emotional well-being and safety.
3. Invest in strengthening generation of data and evidence to monitor progress in Member States, and to disseminate and exchange knowledge and innovation.
4. Strengthen efforts to recognize, reward and celebrate Teachers and Innovators to encourage the emergence of new ideas. On this front, African Union will shortly be hosting the AU Continental Teacher Prize and the 4th Edition of Innovating Education in Africa.
We hope you will join us at these upcoming events. May I also emphasize that it is important that we do not forget to strengthen Career Guidance and Life Skills opportunities to mold all rounded learners, who are appreciative of their environment and able to thrive in a dynamic world that we are in today.
The African Union Commission is part of this journey and will play our part so that together we can develop a vibrant education and skills development systems that drives Africa’s economies.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR KIND ATTENTION.