Major new report on youth and adult education

Graca Machel launches report at regional conference

Richard Lee's picture


Strategic communications for WWF

August 22nd, 2012

Many countries in southern Africa are facing a critical and growing challenge – how to provide an education that meets the socio-economic needs of their bulging youth populations and illiterate adults.

Great strides have been made in recent years towards providing universal primary education, increasing participation in secondary and tertiary education, reducing gender disparities, and addressing the needs of the most marginalised groups. But despite these gains, a lot still needs to be done in the youth and adult education sectors if southern African countries are ever to meet the demands of all the uneducated and unskilled youth and adults in the region.

And there are very limited ‘second chances’ for these youth to learn in adulthood since the adult education sector faces serious difficulties.

Now a major conference has brought together over 60 participants from across the region – including representatives from government, civil society and academia – to discuss this critical issue and agree upon an action plan to ensure the provision of quality youth and adult education services in order to give everyone the chance of a brighter future – and to make southern African societies fairer and more equal for all.

Hosted by the South Africa Reflect Network (SARN) on behalf of the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) and in collaboration with dvv international, the conference was opened by Graca Machel, the renowned children and women’s rights activist, and will discuss the findings of a new regional research project into youth and adult learning and education.

While focusing on five countries – Angola, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique and Swaziland – the findings of the study highlight key issues that the entire region needs to address – and will provoke much-needed reflection and debate on youth and adult education by policy-makers, experts and financiers at the conference as well as at national and regional levels in the months to come.

The Education for All and Millennium Development Goals were adopted a dozen years ago but huge numbers of youngsters still drop out of school before completing their studies and find themselves entering adulthood with no place in education, employment or training. Their fundamental right to learn is denied and their chances of finding decent work in a rapidly changing and increasingly technologically oriented world are sharply reduced.

Although education consumes a high proportion of national budgets, it fails to deliver for this group – damaging their prospects and those of their families, communities and nations.

Against this background, OSISA in collaboration with the Institut für Internationale Zusammenarbeit des Deutschen Volkshochschul-Verbandes (dvv international) commissioned research to map the current state of youth and adult education in five southern African countries. Researchers based in each of the countries looked at the laws, policies and institutional frameworks governing the sector; who funds it and who the key stakeholders and role-players are.

Key findings of the study were:

  • All five countries need clearer policies, better financing and improved governance to help youth and adults enjoy their right to education;
  • Policies covering the components of youth and adult education (literacy, non-formal education, vocational education, life skills or continuing education) are patchy and ambiguous; and,
  • There is a dearth of hard information, with very little effort being made at policy level to aggregate data to get a clearer view of the big picture.

Among the 45 recommendations were:

  • Governments need to recognise adult education as an autonomous sector;
  • Education partners and stakeholders must have improved access to official information;
  • Literacy curricula and materials need a drastic overhaul;
  • Language policy needs revision to acknowledge that the basic building-blocks of language are best acquired in a learner’s mother-tongue; and,
  • Funding should aim to help youth and adult education become sustainable, including the use of longer project funding periods.

Although the research covered only five countries, the findings of this study complement earlier work on other countries and highlight key issues that the entire region needs to address – and illustrate that the problems are systematic and endemic.

The full report can be downloaded here – and separate country reports will be issued online in September.


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