Human Capital Africa (HCA) has again sought attention to the scale of the learning crisis in Africa, where nine out of 10 children cannot read with understanding by age 10.
The event was held on the sidelines of the UN Transforming Education Summit in New York and was attended by heads of state, ministers of education, business leaders, civil society organisations and prominent African intellectuals.
The organisation noted that the scale of the learning crisis in Africa is being more widely understood, with a range of international and African leaders making important commitments to prioritise foundational learning over the coming years.
As the continent most affected by the learning crisis, Africa is taking a leading role in designing and delivering solutions. The HCA Learning Scorecard ranks countries in SSA on the quality of primary education. Countries are scored on indicators in six categories, including enrolment, completion, learning, resourcing, remediation and socio-economic factors. These represent the ability of the education sector to provide quality education to children at a young age to prepare them for a future of learning.
At the launch, HCA founder Dr Oby Ekekwesili said: “It has been incredibly encouraging to see recognition of the learning crisis in Africa at this summit and to see the level of commitment amongst African leaders, policymakers and policymakers business leaders to address the generational challenge the learning crisis represents. This is a problem we are going to crack.”
She added, “It is clear from the results of our inaugural HCA scorecard that we have considerable work to do, with the majority of countries scoring poorly on our 2022 indicators. By providing these benchmarks, we have an opportunity to celebrate the countries making advances and to focus on those that need most help.”
Commenting on Malawi’s participation in the inaugural scorecard, Minister for Education Agnes Nyalonge said: “We have adopted the HCA scorecard because we know that taking known and reliable data and using it to guide our actions means we are better able to develop policies and better able to implement them. Our number one reform is to focus on data-informed decision making and we are using it to guide our response.”
The President of Guinea Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embaló, speaking in his capacity as Chairman of ECOWAS, reinforced his commitment to take action in the learning crisis in Africa and noted that “nine out of 10 children cannot read a simple sentence by the age of 10, this is an issue of the utmost importance and Africa must not let itself be left behind.”
The importance of foundational learning to the business community was recognised by Aliko Dangote, President of the Dangote Group of companies, who said: “This learning crisis in Africa is getting worse by the day and has consequences far beyond the classroom. By 2030, about a quarter of the world’s population under the age of 25 will be in or from Africa. So the economic prospects, not only of Africa but of the world, depend on the skills, capabilities and productivity of our youth.”
The importance of education to Africa’s future prosperity was highlighted by Nathalie Delapalme, Executive Director of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation. She said that by the end of the century, Africa’s youth population would be twice Europe’s total population.
Reinforcing the importance of addressing the learning crisis in Africa, renowned Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie stressed that reading “helps you to think critically and contextually, and enables reasoning.”
She added, “We cannot talk about our problems if we don’t understand them, let alone begin to solve them. Everything I know today I can link back to what I learnt in my primary school in Nsukka.
The HCA scorecard will be formally launched with African Policy Makers at the ADEA Triennale Summit in Mauritius from October 19-21.