This week Heads of State, political leaders and Education Ministers from over 100 countries are gathering at the prestigious Education World Forum in London.
This year’s Education World Forum is happening under the theme Building forward together; stronger, bolder, better. The largest gathering of education and skills ministers is coming on the back of a difficult period where education systems across the world were stretched to the limit by the Covid-19 pandemic. The influential conference will address key policy issues with political leaders sharing the education system challenges they face, the solutions they have found, the learning that has occurred and the successes they have achieved.
The Ugandan delegation led by First Lady Janet Museveni will have the opportunity to review government programmes and partnership models that are being deployed across the continent to boost learning outcomes in public school systems. Partnerships are important for strengthening the Ugandan education system.
While marking the independence week last year, First Lady Janet Museveni urged Ugandan diplomats to work with various stakeholders to attract investments in the education sector. She called for establishment of partnerships with other institutions and establishment of opportunities for research collaborations.
The disruption to the global education caused by the Covid-19 pandemic is without parallel and the effects on learning are severe. In Uganda, the country enforced the longest period of school closures worldwide during the pandemic. For almost two years, 15 million pupils did not attend school in the country.
The pandemic affected the most vulnerable learners the hardest. It has increased inequalities and exacerbated a pre-existing education crisis in the country. Lack of connectivity and devices excluded many children from pursuing learning remotely.
Recent evidence suggests that learning losses as a result of the pandemic are even worse than previously estimated. According to World Bank Education, “Learning Poverty” – defined as a child not being able to read or understand a simple text by age 10 – is expected to increase by 70% in the Global South as a result.
In Uganda, 9 percent of primary school-aged children are not enrolled in school. These children are excluded from learning in school. For those who are in school, 83 percent at late primary age are not proficient in reading.
In Uganda, a handful of novel initiatives bridged the gap during the pandemic. A sterling example is Bridge@Home. Bridge@Home kept hundreds of pupils in both well-served and underserved communities learning through virtual Whatsapp classrooms and a mobile phone-based interactive quiz system available to pupils in Yet, there is no doubt that the learning losses that have impacted a generation of learners will be at the forefront of political leaders and policy makers minds as the delegates gather.
To be more resilient, equitable and inclusive, education systems must be transformative, leveraging technology to benefit all learners and building on the innovations and partnerships catalyzed throughout the Covid-19 crisis.
The Ministry of Education and Sports has developed an Education Digital Agenda Strategy 2021 – 2025 to improve Uganda’s education service delivery through sustainable digital transformation. The Ministry is committed to establishing a framework for the development, deployment, uptake and utilization of sustainable, ethically sound and harmonized ICT initiatives for teaching, learning and management of the education and sports sector.
Education providers like Bridge Schools Uganda have been using innovative technology to deliver affordable high-quality learning to Ugandan children. Such players will go a long way in complementing the government’s efforts to build stronger technology-based education systems.
The Covid-19 pandemic has placed the Ugandan education system under immense pressure. It is now more important than ever for the Government to explore different ways of working with education partners to strengthen the education system in the country.
Public-private partnerships (PPPs) can help countries meet education goals by increasing access to good quality education for all, especially for underserved communities. Across Africa, education partnerships are already in effect at scale and changing the prospects for populations. Making high-quality education accessible for all in Uganda will require innovative programmes and initiatives in addition to dedicated public resources.
Bridge Schools Uganda is a long-term partner of the Ministry of Education and Sports in the provision of quality education. Through the National Curriculum Development Centre (NCDC), the Ministry has approved Bridge PLE Revision Books for use at primary level. This means thousands of Ugandan children will benefit from the Bridge PLE revision books which have empowered Bridge pupils to perform exceptionally well in the PLE exams for four consecutive years.
While there are many strengths within the Ugandan education system, there are also some existing challenges. Enrolment has gone up, but school dropouts and teacher absenteeism continue to pose a threat. As such, the Government will need partners to deal with the myriad of challenges facing the education sector in the country.
At Bridge Schools Uganda, we are committed to partnering with the government and other stakeholders in scaling up support to help children learn better, while transforming the education system for the benefit of all children.
As education and skills ministers gather in London this week to explore how to build stronger and better education systems, Uganda and other countries have an opportunity to accelerate learning recovery and make schools more efficient, equitable, and resilient by building on investments made and lessons learned during the crisis. Now is the time to shift from crisis to recovery – and beyond recovery, to resilient and transformative education systems that truly deliver learning and well-being for all children.
This writer, John Aluba is the Director, Bridge Schools Uganda