Nigeria: AU and UNESCO seek measures to help 100 million out-of-school children

The African Union (AU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) have expressed concern over the alarming number of out-of-school children in Africa.

At least 100 million children on the continent are about to lose what renowned civil rights activist Malcolm X called their “passport to the future”: education.

The urgent need to reverse this ugly trend through collective action at different levels informs the choice of “Educating a fit African for the 21st century” as the AU theme for 2024.

The role of the media is fundamental to the roadmap. And this was the highlight of a side event on the theme of the year at the 3rd African Media Convention held in Accra, Ghana, May 15-17, 2024.

“We foresee very important contributions from the media in the implementation of the issue. We also need an educated, well-trained, competent and efficient media, fit for the 21st century, to be able to contribute to the promotion of education on the continent. “said Adiatou Fatty, communications leader of the Education, Science, Technology and Innovation (ESTI) unit of the AU Commission.

He regretted that the progress made in education on the continent had been eroded in recent years, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that Africa had fallen behind in meeting the education goal of the sustainable development goals.

“In Africa, around 100 million school-age children do not go to school. 86% of 10-year-olds cannot read or understand simple texts. This is quite terrible compared to other parts of the world. This situation calls for urgent action by African education actors to come together to strategize and put education at the forefront.

“Basically, the theme of the year is a call to action to address the alarming state of education on the continent. It is a clarion call to revitalize the education system on the continent while also extending attention to particular demographic groups, such as children in rural areas, people living with disabilities and people in fragile situations,” Fatty said.

The theme also speaks to the challenges in education financing, advocating for adequate funding for better educational facilities and architecture within the continent. Critical actors in the implementation of the theme include the AU Commission, AU member states, regional economic communities, education system stakeholders, development partners, media, private sector and Africans in the diaspora, Fatty revealed.

“The AU formulated the Digital Education Strategy for Africa. It is a framework to accelerate the adoption of digital technologies in education. The strategy envisions a continent where citizens have the digital competencies necessary to thrive in the digital age.

“We have a virtual university of the UA. The idea is to take advantage of digital technologies to bring education to the doors of students and professionals across the continent. Digital literacy and skills are expected to be the core competencies of every professional in the Without that, we don’t see how the media can effectively contribute to the digital economy we seek.

“The roadmap for the implementation of the year’s theme focuses on the reform of the teaching profession and on the investment and sustainable financing of education, especially STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. It also focuses on technical and professional education, innovative and sustainable digital learning, home-grown school feeding, improvement of educational management, among others,” he stated.

Preparing young Africans for the future

UNESCO is a key partner in seeking to update the AU theme of the year on education, participating in the drafting of the concept note and roadmap for the theme, said Dr Rita Bissoonauth, Director of the Office UNESCO Liaison Office. to the African Union and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa.

He explained that UNESCO had drawn up a list of activities with all partners inside and outside the continent on what to do during the year so that member states understand the urgency of addressing educational issues.

“We have more than 100 million out-of-school children on our continent; we do not have enough teachers; we need around 70 million teachers in Africa. It is time for UNESCO, in collaboration with the African Union, to advocate for the need to increase spending on education, to ensure that our young people are prepared for the world of tomorrow.

“We must not forget that by 2040, around a third of our young people will be in the global labor market. This means that we must ensure, in the next 15 years, that our young people obtain the competencies, skills and values ​​to be able to enter the market and access different jobs,” said Bissoonauth.

According to her, UNESCO also works on education as a gateway to sustainable development, thus allowing young people to be more aware of the impact of climate change.

“Today on our continent we have major floods and droughts that affect children’s education. We have many children out of school due to climate change. At UNESCO we are trying to ensure that climate change is a cross-cutting issue “A hot topic that involves not only science but also the media, communication and education to develop our resilience,” he added.

Education and Agenda 2063

In her remarks, Honorable Poloko Nuggert Ntshwarang, member of the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, emphasized the indispensable role of education in the realization of the AU Agenda 2063, which seeks a prosperous and peaceful Africa .

He described education as a cornerstone in the development of human capital, equipping young Africans with the knowledge, skills and competencies necessary for their personal growth and success in various sectors such as agriculture, industry, technology, spirit business, science, arts and culture.

“It allows them to actively participate in the development processes of society and enables them to become agents of change and contribute to the transformation of Africa. Education also encourages innovation and research initiatives, addressing critical challenges on the continent, such as healthcare, adaptation to climate change, technological advances, and other issues.

“Importantly, it also facilitates the promotion of African history, culture, languages ​​and values, which will help foster solidarity, integration and cooperation among African nations,” Ntshwarang said.