From 23-27 April 2012, the Fifth Ordinary Session of the Conference of Ministers of Education of the African Union (COMEDAF III) will take place in Abuja to continue the debate on the implementation of the African Union’s Action Plan for the Second Decade of Education (2006-2015).
While COMEDAF has been in existence for a long time, there is very little knowledge of its outcomes and worse still the existence on an Africa-wide agenda for education. If truth be told even Ministry of Education officials at national level express ignorance of the Africa Education agenda, while education practitioners on the continent will talk about the global Education for All (EFA) agenda rather than about the Africa Union’s Second Decade of Education.
Many of the civil society organisations advocating for the right to education also have little knowledge, if any, of the existence of this agenda. There has been little, if any, civil society engagement with COMEDAF processes and the agenda has remained an affair of Africa's ministers of education.
So three years before the set deadline of 2015 for achieving the goals of the Second decade of Education, what are the prospects for education in Africa? Has COMEDAF lived to its commitment or is it the usual rhetoric and no progress? What hope does the African child have in the outcome of the upcoming COMEDAF? Will this be another one of those conferences where so much is said and nothing is done just to come back a few years letter to talk to the same issues?
The meeting could be more successful if civil society pushes for the implementation of the agenda but until now, civil society organisations have focused on pushing the agenda for EFA and not the African agenda. So how can the shift be made?
For the first time, civil society across Africa will hold a pre-COMEDAF conference in Abuja with the aim of putting together some minimum demands as outcomes from the conference. The meeting has been together by Plan International Pan African Programme and the Africa Network Campaign on Education for All (ANCEFA) with support from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). One key question that CSOs want COMEDAF to address is ‘what is Africa’s strategy pre 2015 to accelerate progress towards goals and most importantly what is Africa putting on the table for the post 2015 education agenda?'
A positive development is that COMEDAF has opened up to the participation of civil society and will have its representatives as part of the pre-COMEDAF meeting and a time has been allotted during COMEDAF for a civil society presentation.