Urgent call to boost education in Africa
Ministers urged to act at key meeting in Abuja
With the Fifth Conference for Ministers of Education in Africa (COMEDAF V) taking place in Abuja on 26-28 April, civil society organisations from across Africa have issued a statement highlighting the continent's alarming education statistics, committing themselves to advocate more forcefully and effectively, and calling on governments to take urgent measures that will ensure quality education for all.
The statement from members and partners of ANCEFA - the 35-member Africa Network Campaign for Education for All - was agreed at a special civil society conference in advance of the ministerial meeting. Attended by 50 participants from 14 countries, the meeting was held under the theme of Accelerating Achievement of Education Goals in Africa pre- and post 2015 - and was the first time that civil society organisations have come together to try and directly influence a COMEDAF gathering.
And the need for greater effort is clear. Education is a fundamental human right and important for sustainable development but is facing significant challenges in most African countries. With only three years to 2015 - the deadline set out in the MDGs,
lack of ownership and awareness of the AU Plan of Action for the Second Decade at the country level, with many countries yet to integrate the Plan of Action into their domestic education programmes.
Faced by these facts, the members and partners of ANCEFA committed themselves to making a real difference by popularising the AU Second Decade of Education in Africa in their respective countries to create awareness and facilitate successful implementation; actively participating in the implementation and monitoring of the Second Decade of Education Plan of Action; advocating for the successful implementation of decisions arising from COMEDAF V; participating fully in the processes around developing a post 2015 education agenda for Africa; and supporting urgent government action - and other interventions - to accelerate progress towards EFA and MDGs in Africa.
And to accelerate progress, the civil society organisations called on COMEDAF V to take critical decisions and demanded urgent action by African states and regional bodies, including:
- Prioritising inclusive education at all levels of education to achieve equitable access, especially for girls, children with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups;
- Improving quality and relevance of education by paying due attention to teacher training and requirements, teacher incentives, and ensure that the curriculum contributes to positive knowledge, skills, attitudes, values and practices;
- Addressing the challenges in education financing through:
i. Adopting innovative sources - such as domestic financing through taxation and contributions from extractive industries to minimize reliance on aid;
ii. Increasing investment in Early Childhood Care and Education, adult literacy, girls education and life skills, and vocational training for young people.
iii. Better management of resources allocated to education and ensuring transparency, accountability and zero tolerance to corruption.
- Ensuring wider participation of civil society organizations in regional and national processes, and policy forums that have a bearing on education in the pre- and post 2015 era; and,
- Investing in mechanisms that strengthen government's engagement with - and accountability to - citizens, communities, and other stakeholders.
There is no dispute about the critical importance of education. Every government and every politician champions better education. But the statistics show that talk is not always translated into real action that generates real change. And part of the problem has been the lack of consultation and cooperation between governments and civil society, which is why the statement concludes:
"ANCEFA and its partners are committed to promoting and pushing for the right to quality education for all. Given the challenges experienced in the countries, ANCEFA calls upon the leadership of the African Union and Member States to work together with civil society organisations and partners in collaborating towards achieving the EFA goals, the MDGs and realization of Africa’s collective vision in education as articulated in the AU Plan of Action for the Second Decade on Education for Africa."