Africa’s ongoing education crisis demands the urgent attention of political leaders and aid partners.
We do not use the word “crisis” lightly. In education, as in other areas, much has been achieved over the past decade. Enrolment levels have soared. More children are making it through primary education into secondary school. Gender gaps have narrowed. Many countries have registered a pace of advance that would have been inconceivable when the Millennium Development Goals were established.
Yet, on current trends, the target of universal primary education by 2015 will be missed by a wide margin, leaving millions of children out of school – and there are worrying indications that progress may be slowing. Meanwhile, many of the children in school are receiving an education of such abysmal quality that they are learning very little. Far from accumulating “21st century skills”, millions of Africa’s children are emerging from primary school lacking basic literacy and numeracy.
Education has the potential to transform Africa’s social and economic development. Unlocking that potential will require governments to act with urgency on three fronts:
• Every government needs to redouble its efforts to ensure that all children are in school by 2015;
• Far greater attention must be directed towards the quality of education and learning achievement;
• Governments need to put equity at the centre of their education strategies.