By Iyabo Lawal
Ten Africa ministers of education and a similar number of ministerial representatives have agreed to champion foundational learning as a priority for the 2024 African Union Year of Education 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 policy dialogue forum on foundational learning, organised by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), and hosted by the Ministry of Education in the Republic of Zambia.
In a communiqué issued at the end of the forum, participants agreed on 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, foster dialogue and share good practices on what works in foundational learning.
They also agreed to strengthen links between Early Childhood 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 their well-being.
Zambia’s Minister of Education, Douglas Munsaka Syakalima, who represented President Hakainde Hichilema, 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 to life. Without foundational skills in numeracy and literacy, there can be no further learning quality. The Executive Secretary of ADEA, Albert Nsengiyumva, said Africa is the continent most affected by learning crisis, and the solutions must be developed from within.
While commending participants for providing the needed leadership, Nsengiyumva said we must build on the momentum to accelerate the progress that will make the region a leader in global response to the learning crisis.
The Director of Global Education at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Benjamin Piper, advocated 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, Founder of Human Capital Africa and co-convener of the foundational learning ministerial coalition, Dr Obiageli Ezekwesili, said ministers need to design appropriate solutions for their national contexts, and ensure that progress is tracked, remedial action taken, and transparency and accountability embedded.
During the school visits, participants witnessed the nexus between policy and practice, as well as integration of socio-emotional skills through play-based learning.