Human Capital Africa RoundTable: ‘’Our Children are not Learning: We Must Fix the Foundational Literacy and Numeracy Crisis Now’’
The world achieved an extra milestone in terms of access to education. A staggering 99% of children in sub-Saharan Africa are enrolled in primary school, which is the highest level ever reached. This is evidence that, with enough political will and the right actions, it is possible to successfully deliver reforms. While this has laid an excellent foundation, access alone has not guaranteed that children are learning in schools. It is now time for us to turn our attention to the quality of education.
Learning poverty is defined by the World Bank as being unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10. It has become clear that many children around the world are not learning to read proficiently. Even though most children are in school, a large proportion are not acquiring fundamental skills. In most developed countries, 2 out of every 10 children are said to suffer from Learning Poverty. This means that only 2 out of every 10 children in those countries can’t read or write meaningfully at the age of 10. In low- and middle-income countries, this number shoots up to an alarming Seven (7) children out of ten (10). It gets worse. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Nine (9) out of ten (10) children are unable to read a simple sentence by the age of 10. It shows that even among the poorest-performing nations, Sub-Saharan Africa is doing even worse.
Without these basic skills, many African children are unprepared for the learning that comes next and are thus not guaranteed the ability to meaningfully learn in secondary or any further education. Additionally, they are not guaranteed an opportunity for productive employment, which would result in upward social mobility for individuals, communities, countries, and the continent at large. Focusing on the problems of the now, should not make us myopic about the crisis that awaits in the future.
By 2050, one in every four people on the planet will be African, and about 50% of the African population will be 25 years of age or younger. It is upon all of us to ensure that these children are ready for the future.
In 2022, Human Capital Africa (HCA) utilized the Transforming Education Summit (TES) and ADEA Triennale to host successful side events to create awareness and ensure commitment from the Ministers and country leaders to address this learning crisis.
As one of the most important convenings of country leaders, policymakers, and key decision-makers in the world, HCA views the upcoming 78th Session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) as another opportunity to ensure we do not lose the momentum and urgency created last year and work with countries to formalize their commitments.
OVERVIEW OF HCA
Led by Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili, HCA is an accountability and advocacy organization that aims to bridge the gap between evidence and action on improving learning for children under the age of 10 across sub-Saharan Africa.
We expect country leaders, ministers, key influencers in the government, and external partners and leaders to be the main audience for our work and engagement.
We raise awareness about the need to focus on foundational literacy and numeracy (FLN), help governments adopt the right set of policies and actions to fix it, and use data to help country leaders take action.
We do this by using three key tools:
Advocacy and awareness: Raise awareness about education system performance and make country leaders care, particularly about foundational learning and numeracy (FLN) and the FLN goal in the first few years. A key tool to do this is HCA’s board of advisors, composed of some of the most influential leaders across the continent, which provides HCA the platform necessary to amplify its message in a noticeable way
Data: Amplify existing data on learning outcomes to raise awareness and make country leaders care, particularly about foundational learning and numeracy, through our Foundational Learning Scorecard, Micro Learning Indicators, and Adoption Tracker Tool
Information: Broker partnerships between governments and partners to provide information on what works to help country leaders take the actions needed to improve FLN outcomes
HCA believes in the strength and value of working in collaboration with a broad set of actors and aspires to bring these various parts together for collective action. HCA also strongly believes that the right set of tools, knowledge, and guidance are already available to do something about this learning crisis.
It is a fundamental right for all children to be allowed to learn, contribute to society, and have productive, meaningful futures. Ensuring that this right is provided must be high on the agenda of all government leaders, policymakers, civil society actors, the private sector, and all key global and regional partners.
OBJECTIVES OF THIS EVENT
We consider the side event at the 78th session of the UNGA a beacon of hope amidst the tumultuous challenges faced by the global community. It serves as a pivotal platform where the world’s most influential country leaders, policymakers, and key decision-makers converge to address a crisis of paramount importance: the state of foundational learning in sub-Saharan Africa. This gathering of heavy hitters, both global and continental influencers, epitomizes the urgency with which we must act to secure a promising future for the children of Africa. This event catalyzes change, galvanizing nations to adopt tested approaches and establish their own pathways to success. We wish to convert the powerful messaging and advocacy into action and commitment from countries.
Key objectives of our side event, therefore, include:
1. Ensuring that the momentum generated by the transformative discussions at the previous TES and ADEA Triennale events must not wane; it must be harnessed and translated into concrete action.
2. Ensuring that we seize the opportune moment to solidify commitments made by countries and ensure they are formally integrated into national agendas.
Work together to transform advocacy into tangible outcomes that will shape the trajectory of education in sub-Saharan Africa.
3. Emphasize the pivotal role of data, evidence, and best practices; discourse must be rooted in these essential elements, guiding participants towards effective strategies at the country level.
4. Share actionable insights and showcase successful models to empower policymakers to take targeted measures that will yield outcomes for the foundational learning sector.
5. Establish commendable Malawi’s plans and processes serve as beacons of hope, exemplifying what can be achieved when a nation places learning at the heart of its priorities. This is to inspire other countries to emulate their remarkable efforts
6. Raise global awareness, shining a spotlight on African champions who demand an end to the injustice that robs children of a promising future.
The stage is set for a momentous occasion. As the world watches, this side-event will serve as a clarion call for urgent action, uniting global and continental influencers in their steadfast determination to make foundational learning a top priority. Together, we have the power to change the narrative and secure a brighter future for the children of Africa.