By Yetunde Ayobami Ojo
A non-governmental organization, Human Capital Africa (HCA), has issued a call-to-action for policymakers to respond to Africa’s learning crisis. The organization noted that Africa is experiencing a learning crisis that requires urgent response. According to the World Bank, nine out of 10 children in Sub-Saharan Africa do not achieve basic reading and numeracy skills by the age of 10. This is a shocking statistics, especially when compared with developed economies, where only one out of 10 children does not achieve basic literacy and numeracy skills at the same age. In Nigeria alone, 83 per cent of children enrolled in Grades two or three cannot read and understand simple texts. The World Bank predicted that because of COVID-19, learning poverty has been made worse by at least 10 per cent. Foundational literacy and numeracy are critical skills children need for success throughout their school careers and to participate gainfully in employment in their adult years. In response, the Board of Advisors of HCA, an accountability and advocacy initiative, called on policymakers across the continent to take note and respond to this alarming learning crisis.
HCA’s Board of Advisors includes stalwarts who have been driving development in their corners of Africa, like Board Chair and former President of Malawi, Dr Joyce Banda, Trevor Manuel, Kennedy Odede, Kah Walla, Adama Gaye, Sangu Delle, N’Diaye Ramatoulaye Diallo, Erastus J. O. Mwencha and Rosa Whitaker.
“This is a wake-up call for Heads of States, ministers, donors and other partners. It is time to prioritize learning for our children. If children cannot read and do basic mathematics at the age of 10, they will be deprived of the opportunity to be productive members of the workforce, society, and the global economy,” Banda said.
The call to-action urged policymakers to recognize the challenge by reviewing the current state of foundational learning in their country, prioritize the issue at all levels of government; collect, report and use data on student learning and the overall education system; learn from evidence and other countries and implement what works; hold themselves and others accountable by taking regular stock of progress among others.
HCA, spearheaded by Nigeria’s former Minister of Education, Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, was launched in October 2021, alongside the Nigerian Economic Summit (NES27), in the presence of African dignitaries and education experts. “It is our responsibility to bring Africa out of this crisis. I invite my fellow country leaders to accept our call-to-action and work with Human Capital Africa. Together, we can embark on the journey to improve the quality of education in Sub-Saharan Africa,” Ezekwesili said.