By Iyabo Lawal
Key stakeholders in the education sector met recently to deliberate on gaps in policy and discuss available solutions to improve children’s foundational learning outcomes. 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 an alarming statistic, especially when compared with developed economies where only one out of 10 do not achieve basic literacy and numeracy skills at the same age.
The dialogue, themed: “Evidence for Learning” and hosted by People’s Action for Learning (PAL) was convened alongside Regional Economic Communities (RECs) in Africa.
Speaking at the event, Chief Executive Officer, PAL Network, Armando Ali, stressed the need for collaboration to bridge the gap between evidence and action to improve learning outcomes for children under the age of 10, across the region. “We need to get it right for Africa’s growing youth population. This is only possible through a coordinated response that emphasizes the importance of foundational learning policy guidelines in combating the dramatic learning crisis that millions of African children are experiencing. There have been synergies to improve foundational literacy and numeracy, and the forum will provide an opportunity to benchmark successful solutions that have worked in other countries and review data required to inform equitable and inclusive responses to education,” Ali said.
“Evidence for Learning” is a call to action for all stakeholders to share proof of work done to collaboratively drive learning intervention programmes aimed at improving learning outcomes. Dr. Sara Ruto, who was the Chief Administrative Officer in the Ministry of Education and a mentor of Citizen Led Assessment and Actions in Africa, said: “Education is a source of power for many children. The situation is dire. Not many children have access to skills and competencies needed to yield successful adults. “
A recent study conducted by Usawa Agenda in Kenya, showed that at least 60 per cent of grade four students are falling behind in competencies they should have learnt a year earlier. 57 per cent of the grade four girls tested could not read a grade three level text. “We must accelerate learners’ acquisition of foundational literacy and numeracy skills,’’ Ruto added.
Director of Global Education, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr. Benjamin Piper, said it is critical to ensure that all students acquire fundamental knowledge. “Foundational learning and socio-emotional skills serve as the foundation for all other learning, knowledge and higher-order skills that children and youths acquire through education, as well as learning in general throughout life. Too many children, however, leave school without having mastered these fundamental skills,” Piper observed.
Also in attendance at the forum were Dr. Rukmini Banerji, Chief Executive Officer, Pratham Education Foundation and Graça Machel, Women and Children’s Rights advocate and First Education Minister of Mozambique.
PAL network seeks to collaborate with a broad set of stakeholders across the continent, leveraging evidence-based advocacy to mobilize government and policymakers to take actions that improve early learning outcomes for children and drive the accountability needed to deliver change at scale across Sub-Saharan Africa. PAL Network is a south-south partnership of 17 member organisations working to promote children’s foundational learning across Africa, Asia, and America. Members conduct citizen-led assessments and learning intervention programmes aimed at improving learning outcomes.