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Africa’s Education Opportunity

Education is the most effective tool for dismantling the cycles of intergenerational poverty that have impeded Africa's economic development. To ensure that children acquire basic numeracy and literacy skills, educators and policymakers must provide all learners with an equitable, high-quality learning environment – and food.

FREETOWN – Education is on the cusp of a global shift. September’s Transforming Education Summit at the United Nations in New York brought together representatives from more than 130 countries to discuss how to respond to the worldwide learning crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Unless that response truly is transformative, the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal for Education (SDG4), which aims to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all” by 2030, will remain out of reach.

Against this background, Africa is on the cusp of an education transformation of its own. Officials, civil-society organizers, and educators from across the continent convened last month in Mauritius for the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) Triennale, which focused on addressing the pandemic’s devastating effects on millions of schoolchildren and university students.

The greatest challenge currently facing schools in Africa is enabling students to develop a capacity for learning. There is a general consensus that acquiring numeracy and literacy skills in early childhood is critical to improving learning outcomes and reducing socioeconomic inequalities. But while giving every child the opportunity to succeed has become something of a mantra among government officials and education professionals, we must acknowledge that Africa is far from achieving this goal.