African Union Year Of Education: Sterling One Foundation Partners African Education Ministers, Other Stakeholders
L-R: Albert Nsengiyumva. Executive Secretary, Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), Olapeju Ibekwe, CEO, Sterling One Foundation, Obiageli Ezekwesili, Former Minister of Education, Nigeria and Founder, Human Capital Africa, John Ntim Fordjour, Deputy Minister of Education, Ghana and Dr. Benjamin Piper, Director of Global Education, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation at the 2023 High Level Policy Dialogue on Foundational Learning in Zambia recently.
The Sterling One Foundation has restated its commitment to investing in foundational learning and working with the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and partners to boost education in Africa.
This commitment was made at the 2023 High Level Policy Dialogue hosted in Zambia by ADEA and the Zambian Ministry of Education 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 the African Union Year of Education scheduled for 2024.
Over the years, development experts have bemoaned the dire situation facing Africa’s youth, given the inefficient education system in place to cater to them, coupled with the rapid rise in their population. In Sub-Saharan Africa, the State of Global Education Update reports that only 10% of 10-year-olds are able to read basic story texts or solve simple arithmetic problems, thus placing the region as the lowest in terms of numeracy skills and foundational literacy in the world.
With this challenge at the front burner, ten African Ministers of Education and some other country representatives agreed to prioritize foundational learning and develop a foundational learning starter pack model for the 2024 African Union Year of Education (AUYoE) and beyond, as an urgent step towards tackling the challenge.
The starter pack is expected to serve as a uniform resource material that will help the participating countries develop a sustainable solution for the problem. Furthermore, the model will prioritize data collection and analysis of the data in partnership with ADEA and other key policy partners to improve laws and bring to fore policies that foster more efficiency, peer learning and best practices in support of the AUYoE.
Sharing her perspective on the resolutions from the Dialogue, Mrs. Olapeju Ibekwe, CEO of the Sterling One Foundation hailed the ideas and strategies put forward, stating that it will strengthen the work of private sector and civil society organizations contributing to the solutions.
“Policies are crucial to sustainable development work in Africa and we are glad that the deliberations here have fashioned out ways to improve the work being done across the early childhood and primary education value chain. At our Foundation, we support the work of different stakeholders through grants, technical support and strategic engagements, and we are excited to see how the mainstreaming of the resolutions here will improve that work,” she added.
Some of the key aspects the decision-makers at the Policy Dialogue hope to address in the immediate future include adoption of structured pedagogy for the continent, introduction of more age-appropriate teaching methods and use of technology to improve teacher quality, through training and performance monitoring and improvement.
The Minister of Education of Zambia, Hon. Douglas Munsaka Syakalima while stressing the importance of all stakeholders taking the resolutions seriously mentioned that education, especially foundational learning is at the base of what will drive 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 quality,” he said.
Participants at the High-Level Policy Dialogue got the opportunity to review some of the solutions and insights from the participating countries to see what works and where improvements and adaptations are possible. There were also school visits organized for participants to get some first hand experience of play-based learning and other important concepts made possible by the right policies.
During his remarks, the Executive Secretary of ADEA, Mr. Albert Nsengiyumva highlighted the need for a collective commitment to tackling the crisis the continent faces, stating that: “Africa is the continent most affected by the learning crisis, and it is where the solutions must be developed.”
He thanked the participating Ministers of Education and other stakeholders for the work they have done so far, and urged them to continue on that momentum to ensure the acceleration of progress.
Some other leaders who spoke at the Policy Dialogue include Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, Founder of Human Capital Africa and Co-convener of the Foundational Learning Ministerial Coalition, and Dr Benjamin Piper, Director of Global Education at the Gates Foundation, both of whom advocated strongly for data-driven decisions and scaling what has worked.