Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Saturday 18 February 2023 – His Excellency President Dr Julius Maada Bio has delivered the keynote address to the high-level event launching the first edition of the ‘Education in Africa’ report, released by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, and the African Union, on the margins of the Africa Assembly Heads of State and Government.
Adding his voice to the continental education strategy for Africa, the President noted that, while the event hoped to bring a diverse range of voices and perspectives from heads of state and governments, other senior decision-makers and stakeholders from around the continent on the future of education, it was also good for the 2063 Agenda.
“The African Union launched the 2016-2025 Continental Education Strategy to create a new African citizen who would be an effective change agent and a citizen who would help get the continent on the sustainable development track, as envisioned by our 2063 Agenda. Our efforts are, therefore, geared towards teaching fit-for-purpose knowledge, competencies, skills, and promoting the innovation and creativity required to develop Africa’s human capital.
“Today’s formative new report is a joint product of the African Union and UNESCO. Learning losses occasioned and intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic and other global events have set the continent back even further. The report seemingly shows that our vision to develop competitive educational systems in Africa is still out of reach,” he said.
He, however, noted that in spite of their best efforts, African countries were still situated at the bottom of education tables, which on one hand indicated that those countries might have started with a disadvantage and on the other hand that there was a perceived risk that they might not meet their ambitions to achieve SDG4.
“We should, however, be careful to avoid reading this report as a blanket assessment. The new SDG 4 scorecard proposes a way to evaluate progress by how likely each country is to achieve the benchmarks it has set for itself, rather often unrealistic targets that were externally imposed.
“This new assessment report, therefore, gives credit to countries for their progress, regardless of their starting point. It allows us to pinpoint countries that are cutting through challenges to achieve progress. It does not look at how countries are ranked on a global scale. We should, therefore, identify the policies that are helping to make the difference.
“Sierra Leone, for instance, is pleased to appear on the SDG 4 Scorecard. Our country’s Free Quality School Education programme has prioritised and increased education spending and investments, introduced inclusive policies, and expanded access to education to over one million new learners, especially from the early childhood education level. Through our national integrated early childhood development policy, we have made great progress in giving children the best start in life. In addition to political support and commitment at the highest levels, we believe that the right progressive policies will afford us the opportunity to achieve the goals we set,” he said.
It could be recalled that President Julius Maada Bio, as co-chair of the global Transform Education Committee, urged a virtual High-Level Steering Committee meeting by UNESCO in December 2022, reiterated his commitment as the Global Champion for Education Transformation to rally support for education as a critical investment for the youths and for building a peaceful, just, and sustainable future for all societies.
“Sierra Leone believes strongly that foundational learning is the place to start. We can meet our CESA objectives if we focus on getting foundational learning right.
“We should not take foundational literacy and computational skills for granted. We should also be mindful that African children are less likely to learn the basics than children from elsewhere. Without these foundational skills, we will not achieve our broader objective of creating the stronger, more prosperous, more inclusive future we all desire for our children,” he warned.
The President also called for collaboration among various countries, learning from one another and building on their experiences to tackle similar challenges, adding that addressing learning loss and learning poverty was not just a matter of national and continental concern.
“As President, I co-chaired the Transforming Education Summit convened by the United Nations Secretary-General in New York in September and I also sit as co-chair of the SDG 4 High-Level Steering Committee convened by UNESCO,” he noted.
He emphasised that at all those levels he had added his voice to a strong global movement to address three critical factors for change to include political commitment, data, and evidence-based policy recommendations, urging that the more they learned from one another’s experiences and the more they collaborated, the better it would be for the children to learn as well.
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