African Basic Education Ministers agree to collaborate, prioritize foundational learning for the African Union Year of Education

Representatives of 20 African countries recognize the urgent need to address the learning crisis as a critical enabler for wider development goals.

 By Our Reporter

Lusaka: Ten African Ministers of Education and a similar number of ministerial representatives collectively agreed to champion foundational learning as a priority for the 2024 African Union Year of Education (AUYoE) and beyond.

They also resolved to rally their respective heads of state to be “Champions of Foundational Learning”.

These were part of the resolution made in Lusaka at the end of the 2023 High Level Policy Dialogue Forum on Foundational Learning organized by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and hosted by the Ministry of Education in the Republic of Zambia from October 31st to November 1st, 2023.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the forum, ministers and ministerial representatives from 20 African countries agreed on a foundational learning starter pack model as a resource guide to ensure uniformity, continuity, and sustainability. They further resolved to collect relevant data, working with ADEA and partners, to inform policy and decisions on foundational learning, foster dialogue and peer learning, and share good practices on what works in foundational learning in support of AUYoE.

The policymakers and decision-makers agreed to strengthen links between early childhood education and primary education, advance the adoption of structured pedagogy, implement age-appropriate teaching methods, and harness the power of technology to increase the number of qualified teachers and enhance teachers’ well-being.

During the Forum, countries showcased innovative and nationally contextualized solutions with concrete results, among them Benin, Botswana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Senegal, and Zambia, among others. Thus, the ministers and ministerial representatives committed to leading the continental response through collective advocacy during the launch of AUYoE in February 2024, supported by partners.

Opening the policy dialogue on behalf of the host, President Hakainde Hichilema of the Republic of Zambia, the Minister of Education of Zambia, Hon. Douglas Munsaka Syakalima, said: “This forum underscores the belief that foundational learning is at the base of any effort to change the course of Africa’s development. It is by building people that we will derive the resources to craft a new vision and bring such a vision to life. Without foundational skills in numeracy and literacy, there can be no further learning.

The Executive Secretary of ADEA, Albert Nsengiyumva, said, “I am inspired by the collective commitment of our members in tackling this crisis and in developing globally relevant solutions that can be applied anywhere. Africa is the continent most affected by the learning crisis, and it is where the solutions must be developed. I must commend the ministers attending for the work they have done, the leadership they are showing, and the results that they are delivering. We must build on this momentum to accelerate the progress that will make Africa a leader in the global response to the learning crisis.”

The Director of Global Education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Benjamin Piper, advocated for scaling up what works. According to him, ‘’we know what works to boost foundational learning in Africa; structured pedagogy is one way; teaching at the right level is another, so we need to do more of what works at scale.’’

Equally, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, the founder of Human Capital Africa and co-convener of the foundational learning ministerial coalition, said: “Ministers need to be informed by rigorous data and evidence to design appropriate solutions for their national contexts and ensure that progress can be tracked, remedial action taken, and transparency and accountability embedded in the response.”

During the school visits, a key aspect of the forum, participants witnessed the nexus between policy and practice as well as the integration of social-emotional skills through play-based learning.

The forum was closed by Hon. Conrad Sackey, Minister of Education in Sierra Leone, who urged countries to take forward the resolutions emanating from the event. Countries present at the event include Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, eSwatini, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

About ADEA

The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) is a critical voice and a forum for policy dialogue on education in Africa. It is hosted by the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire. The anticipated impact of ADEA’s work is that African countries are empowered to develop education and training systems that respond to their current and emergent needs and sustainably drive Africa’s social and economic transformation.

About the Ministry of Education in Zambia

The Ministry of Education in Zambia is building the next generation of forward-looking and innovative Zambians. We are working to transform the Republic of Zambia into a high-ranking, prosperous, and modern country. The Ministry establishes an enabling environment for a learning and education system that equips learners with innovative, cutting-edge knowledge and in-depth skills for increased competence in a dynamic work environment.

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