African leaders gathered in Mauritius on Thursday, to mull solutions to the education gap highlighted by a new UN education agency report which shows children on the continent are five times less likely to learn the basics, than those living elsewhere.

The ability of education systems to ensure even rudimentary literacy skills for their students has declined in four 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.

Manos Antoninis, Director of the GEM Report, said while every child is born to learn, they can’t do so if they’re hungry, lack textbooks, or don’t speak the language they’re being taught in.

Lack of basic support for teachers is another key factor.

Lessons for all

“Every country needs to learn too, ideally from its peers”, added Mr. Antoninis. “We hope this Spotlight report will guide ministries to make a clear plan to improve learning, setting a vision for change, working closely with teachers and school leaders, and making more effective use of external resources”.

The report includes data from accompanying country reports developed in partnership with ministries of education in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ghana, Mozambique, Rwanda and Senegal and a series of other case studies on the continent.

“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”, said Albert Nsengiyumva, the Executive Secretary of ADEA.

New opportunity

“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 report finds that, in addition to socioeconomic challenges, the limited availability of good quality textbooks, lack of proper teacher support, inadequate teacher training and provision of teacher guides, were a bar to progress across sub-Saharan Africa.

Hopeful signs

Recent interventions show progress is possible, if efforts are focused on classroom practices that are evidence based.

Positive practices highlighted in the report and other experiences will be fed into a peer-learning mechanism on foundational learning, hosted by the AU that has been launched alongside the eport, the Leveraging Education Analysis for Results Network (LEARN), building on the Continental Education Strategy for Africa clusters.

Mohammed Belhocine, African Union Commissioner for Education, Science, Technology and Innovation said the COVID-19 pandemic had thwarted efforts to ensure all children have fundamental skills in reading and maths.

“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”.

Source: News UN

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