Africa has made education-related progress in leaps and bounds over the past few decades — an impressive feat when factoring in their explosive population growth over the same period. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, primary school enrollment has nearly doubled between 1975–2009, going from 44% to 75%, with the expectation that the numbers might be even better now, or at least pre-COVID-19.
However, while a lot has changed for the better, there is still plenty of work to be done:
- Only 13% of the poorest children in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school compared to 70% of the richest. (UNESCO)
- When assessed in 2013, 71% of children from poor households in Nigeria were not attending school compared to 5% of those from rich households. (World Bank)
- Nearly 60% of youth aged 15 to 17 are not in school in sub-Saharan Africa. (DW)
Chido Cleopatra Mpemba, the African Union’s Special Envoy on Youth, together with UNICEF, Goodwall, and other partners, are taking a novel approach to the academic challenges facing the continent. To help transform education and continue to spark positive change in academic quality and enrollment in Africa, the collaboration will take ideas and suggestions on educational priorities directly from young Africans and raise awareness by presenting them to the UN Secretary-General at the Transforming Education Summit (TES) to be held in September at the 77th General Assembly.
The Transforming Education Program
The Transforming Education Program consists of two main components. The first is a U-Report survey that was launched to hear what students and young adults in Africa had to say around the five summit action tracks at the upcoming TES:
- Inclusive, equitable, safe and healthy schools
- Teachers, teaching and the teaching profession
- Learning and skills for life, work and sustainable development
- Digital learning and transformation
- Financing of education
The TES survey remains ongoing, but preliminary results show powerful engagement and new insights into the state of education in many African countries as we try to put the coronavirus pandemic in the rearview mirror. Over 600,000 unique users have taken part in the survey thus far, representing 12 participating countries in Africa. After just 1.5 weeks, the U-Report-administered survey finds that:
- Almost 1 in 5 youth don’t get enough food and drinking water at school.
- Almost 1 out of 5 students do not feel safe at school.
- Nearly 50% of respondents say their teachers need more teaching material.
- Only one quarter of youth have permanent access to the internet at school.
- 40% of respondents say that education is prohibitively expensive.
The second part of the Transforming Education Program is the Youth Ambassador Challenge, also known as the #TransformingEducation Challenge, a regional event launched on and hosted by Goodwall where UNICEF Youth Ambassadors will be identified and selected to become advocates for the five summit action tracks.
Young people across selected African countries are being invited to share videos, text, or images with stories and other responses prompted by questions related to the 5 UNICEF-designated tracks mentioned above. Winning ideas will help make classrooms around Africa more effective, and winners will win monetary prizes and be selected to become UNICEF Youth Ambassadors. In just the first week alone, more than 1,000 #TransformingEducation video entries were submitted on Goodwall representing 36 African countries.
While the survey and challenge wrap up soon, UNICEF, the African Union, Goodwall, and their partners will continue to listen to and amplify the needs of young Africans, starting with the TES, but also across national assemblies, schools, and other platforms.
The Transforming Education Summit (TES)
The 77th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA 77) will take place during the second-half of September 2022 in New York City, from the 13th through the 27th. In the middle of the General Assembly, on September 19, the UN Secretary-General will convene the Transforming Education Summit (TES).
The Transforming Education Summit “seeks to mobilize political ambition, action, solutions and solidarity to transform education: to take stock of efforts to recover pandemic-related learning losses; to reimagine education systems for the world of today and tomorrow; and to revitalize national and global efforts to achieve SDG-4.”
SDG-4, or Goal #4 of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), aims to ensure a quality education, because access to a good education can allow people to escape poverty and move up on the socioeconomic ladder. “The Transforming Education Summit will seek to renew our collective commitment to education and lifelong learning as a pre-eminent public good,” says António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Between June 28–30, 2022, a pre-summit was held at UNESCO headquarters in Paris. Goodwall’s co-founder and CEO Taha Bawa spoke, and the overall objective is to generate momentum and harness evolving discussions in the leadup to the main September event.
The most important civic responsibility in life is voting. Voting gives citizens a voice, a say in issues large and small, near and far. When a person who is able to do so doesn’t take part, they’re effectively handing over their choices and preferences in the direction of policies, government, and the laws we abide by to other parties.
Well-meaning adults continue to do admirably in the fight to make education more universal, more accessible, more sustainable, and more effective. However, with initiatives such as the Transforming Education Program, African youth are finally getting a seat at the table.
The U-Report survey dives deep into details affecting students now, with actionable insights to glean immediately. And, the Goodwall-hosted challenge gives young Africans another chance to share their thoughts and suggestions around these issues, while providing the world with novel ideas from youth representatives on how to transform education directly from those most affected by the current challenges and systems in place.