Africa must begin to address the barriers that negatively impact on our education systems – Charumbira - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Wednesday, June 26, 2024

Africa must begin to address the barriers that negatively impact on our education systems – Charumbira

The President of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), H.E. Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira has stressed the need for Africa to begin to critically address the structural and other barriers that continue to negatively impact on our education systems.

H.E. Chief Charumbira stated this on Wednesday while delivering his opening remarks at the workshop on the African Union theme for the year 2024: “Educate an African fit for the 21st Century: Building resilient education systems for increased access to inclusive, lifelong, quality, and relevant learning in Africa.” The workshop was held on the sidelines of the Third Ordinary Session of the Sixth Parliament of the Pan-African Parliament in Midrand, Johannesburg.

He expressed optimism that the deliberations from the one-day workshop will not only enable PAP to come up with strong recommendations that will contribute to strengthening and reaffirming PAP’s support to the African Union in addressing the deficiencies in the education sector, but also enhance visibility on the theme across the continent.

The PAP President emphasized that the Pan-African Parliament plays a very important role in ensuring that policies and treaties of the African Union are translated into national legislations and enforced by Member States in line with Article 3(1) of the PAP Protocol. Article 3 of the Pan-African Parliament’s Protocol states that, “The objectives of the Pan-African Parliament shall be to: (a) Give a voice to the African peoples and the Diaspora; (b) facilitate the effective implementation of the policies and objectives of the AU…”

He acknowledged the efforts made by the Member States to ensure access, completion, and quality of basic education for all noting that the 2022 UNESCO Report on Education in Africa acknowledges that the proportion of out-of-school children had decreased until around 2010 and that he completion rates had improved in primary and lower secondary education, as well as the access to and the participation in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET).

He also observed that there was a noticeable progress in the access to pre-primary education and in adult literacy and lifelong learning. With respect to School Feeding, low-income countries, have doubled their national budget expenditures from 17 percent to 33 percent between 2013 and 2020 and that in lower middle-income countries, national budgets now account for 88% of school meals financing, up from 55% in 2013.

“While these strides are commendable, it is sad to note that in this 21st century, Africa still faces the most significant challenges globally in the education sector. Some of the gains that Africa had made were reversed by the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic resulting the following unenviable statistics:

i. Although the Out of school rate, i.e the “proportion of children and young people in the official age range for the given level of education who are not enrolled in pre-primary, primary, secondary or higher levels of education” keeps steadily decreasing, especially for the primary level, the absolute number has reached the alarming global estimate of 98 million in Africa.

ii. The learning poverty rate, i.e “the share of children who cannot read a simple text with comprehension by age 10 was the highest in sub-Saharan Africa before COVID-19 pandemic, at 86%. Realistically, this rate is likely to havworsened after the pandemic, estimated now at 90%. This means that nine out of ten children cannot read a simple text with comprehension by age 10.

iii. Africa will need 17 million additional teachers to achieve universal primary and secondary education by 2030.

iv. It is estimated that Africa will account for more than 90% of global external financing needs for education by 2030, with an additional US $40 billion needed to finance education to achieve SDGs for education and move towards meeting the aspirations of Africa’s agenda 2063.

“This situation is indeed unfortunate as the benefits that Africa can realize by investing in a robust and inclusive education sector, particularly one that aligns with market and societal needs cannot be overemphasized. Even in the context of competing crises – inflation, energy, food security, and climate – this is a crisis that is too severe to ignore. It is, therefore, critically important that Africa begins to address the structural and other barriers that continue to negatively impact on our education systems.”

He stressed that education is considered a universal human right as well as an issue of public good and regretted that based  on the out school statistics earlier alluded to, “the reality is that there are still many children on the continent that do not enjoy this right as there are inequalities that are evident in the existing educational systems based on region, gender, and economic status. This obviously means that securing the necessary resources to reform our education system is non-negotiable.”

“In this regard, African parliamentarians have a critical role to play to play in ensuring that adequate resources are allocated to this important sector nationally and continentally. We need to leverage on our control of the national purse to mobilize adequate resources to equip young people with quality education and in-demand skills, and to empower all children regardless of gender, status, level of education or ability, so that no one is left behind. Together we can spearhead an educational turnaround in Africa!”

H.E. Chief Charumbirs concluded by calling upon all parliamentarians and other stakeholders in this who attended the workshop to seize the opportunity to move the education agenda in Africa from mere rhetoric to concrete action – an education agenda that will move the continent forward in terms of addressing the barriers to inclusivity, affordability, accessibility, and applicability for better educational outcomes. I am reminded of the words of the great America civil rights activitist, Malcolm X, who said, “Education is the passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today.”

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