LUSAKA – Ten African Ministers of Education and a similar number of ministerial representatives collectively agreed to champion foundational learning as a priority for the 2024 African Union Year of Education (AUYoE) and beyond. They also resolved to rally their respective Heads of State to be “Champions of Foundational Learning”.
These were part of the resolution made in Lusaka at the end of the 2023 High Level Policy Dialogue Forum on Foundational learning organized by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) and hosted by the Ministry of Education in the Republic of Zambia from 31st October to 1st November 2023.
In a communique issued at the end of the Forum, Ministers, and ministerial representatives from 20 African countries agreed on a foundational learning starter pack model as a resource guide to ensure uniformity, continuity, and sustainability. They further resolved to collect relevant data, working with ADEA and partners, 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 AUYoE.
The policy and decision-makers agreed to strengthen links between Early Childhood Education and Primary Education, advance the adoption of structured pedagogy, implement age-appropriate teaching methods, and harness the power of technology to increase the number of qualified teachers and enhance teachers’ well-being.
During the Forum, countries showcased innovative and nationally contextualised solutions with concrete results, among them Benin, Botswana, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Mauritius, Senegal, and Zambia among others. Thus, the Ministers and ministerial representatives committed to lead the continental response through collective advocacy during the launch of AUYoE in February 2024, supported by partners.
Opening the policy dialogue on behalf of the host, President Hakainde Hichilema of the Republic of Zambia, the Minister of Education of Zambia Hon. Douglas Munsaka Syakalima said: “This forum underscores the belief that foundational learning is at the base of any effort to change the course of 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.
The Executive Secretary of ADEA, Albert Nsengiyumva said: “I am inspired by the collective commitment of our members in tackling this crisis, and to developing globally relevant solutions that can be applied anywhere. Africa is the continent most affected by the learning crisis, and it is where the solutions must be developed. I must commend the Ministers attending for the work they have done, the leadership they are showing, and the results that they are delivering. We must build on this momentum to accelerate the progress that will make Africa a leader in the global response to the learning crisis.”
The Director of Global Education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Benjamin Piper advocated for scaling of what works. According to him, ‘We know what works to boost foundational learning in Africa; structured pedagogy is one way; teaching at the right level is another so we need to do more of what works at scale.’
Equally, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, the founder of Human Capital Africa and co-convener of the foundational learning ministerial coalition said: “Ministers need to be informed by rigorous data and evidence to design appropriate solutions for their national contexts and ensure that progress can be tracked, remedial action taken, and transparency and accountability embedded in the response.”
During the school visits, a key aspect of the Forum, participants witnessed the nexus between policy and practice as well as the integration of social-emotional skills through play-based learning.
The Forum was closed by Hon Conrad Sackey, Minister of Education in Sierra Leone, who urged countries to take forward the resolutions emanating from the event. Countries present at the event include Angola, Benin, Botswana, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, eSwatini, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe.