On the 2nd of August 2022, ADEA organized the 1st preparatory meeting to the 2022 Triennale on Education and Training in Africa to reflect on the impact of COVID-19 on Africa’s educational systems. 31 representatives from various development agencies, countries and partners came to discuss the most pressing issues, relevant approaches and realistic expectations and outcomes from the Triennale which is ADEA’s flagship event and one of Africa’s seminal high-level forums for political dialogue, knowledge and experience sharing. Among the represented countries, we had Dr. Joyce Kaducu, Minister of State for Primary Education, Uganda; Dr. Saku Dukuly, Assistant Minister of Education, Liberia and the Acting Senior Inspector of ECCDE, Ministry of Education and Training, eSwatini.
The opening remarks were made by ADEA’ Senior Programmes Officer Mr Shem Bodo, on behalf of the Executive Secretary Mr Albert Nsengiyumva. After what, ADEA knowledge manager, Mr Christian Elongué, presented a brief overview of Covid-19 impact on education:
- Interrupted access to schools and Learning Loss
- Inadequately unprepared and under-resourced teachers.
- Learners’ well-being
- Challenges in creating, maintaining and improving distance learning solutions
- Poor nutrition
- Parents were unprepared for distance and home learning
- Rise in dropout rates and increased exposure to Gender Based Violence (GBV) and exploitation.
ADEA also highlighted some evidence from the KIX Observatory on COVID-19 impact on education in 40 African countries from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE). These reports revealed that:
- more than 60% of those 40 GPE partner countries in Africa faced prolonged and recurring school closures beyond 200 days ;
- 5.3 million students at primary and secondary education levels were at risk of not returning to school, and girls aremore affected.
- 70% and 90% of countries faced teacher shortages at the primary and the secondary level, respectively.
- Less than 2/3 of primary and just half of the secondary school teachers in Africa received training on basic digital literacy.
- Close to 30% of the GPE countries added more teaching staff to allow for smaller class sizes and greater physical distancing.
- Parents and private sector education providers have a key role to play in financing education during and beyond COVID
- Existing challenges in the implementation of national learning assessment systems, including the absence of baseline information; lack of guidelines and limited capacities of teachers and students to adopt technology in learning and assessment.
Despite this unprecedented impact of a pandemic at every level of education in African countries, participants to this meeting agreed that the experience is not as apocalyptic as some experts had predicted. African governments have implemented urgent and restrictive nationwide measures, which were all concentrated on 3 approaches:
- Service Delivery: what works at the school level?
- Systems Strengthening: What works at the policy level?
- Scaling and Sustainability: How to scale up what works?
In terms of what has worked well at the school and policy level, ADEA highlighted the following as some of its projects on COVID 19 impacts on education:
- Piloting Remote Education Benchmarking Toolkits (Basic Education, TVSD, Higher Education) in 10 African countries.
- Study on the use of ICT in Education during the crisis in pre-primary, primary, secondary, TVET and Higher Education in 30 African countries
- Assessment of key priority areas for capacity strengthening – targeting 30 African countries (and module development)
- Delivering education at home in 12 African Member States amid the COVID-19 pandemic: Status Report (April 2020)
- Impact of COVID-19 on Africa’s Education: Reflecting on Promising Interventions and Challenges (July 2020)
- Tackling the data challenge to enable planning, monitoring, and assessment in educational systems of up to 30 African countries (5-year project).
The KIX Observatory, which ADEA manages in a consortium with AU/CIEFFA and with technical support from APHRC, has mobilized knowledge in form of reports, live trackers, policy briefs and blogs on COVID impact on Africa’s educational systems:
- Teaching & Learner Well-Being during COVID-19 (Feb. 2021)
- Well-being of School Children during COVID-19 (June 2021)
- Financing Education in Africa during COVID-19 (April 2021)
- School Reopening in Africa during COVID-19 (August 2021)
- Teacher Training and Support in Africa (January 2022)
- Learning Assessment in Africa (April 2022)
Emerging issues and main discussions questions
To holistically discuss the impact and lessons learned from COVID-19 on education the following questions were proposed:
- How has COVID-19 impacted access, relevance and quality education delivery across the continent?
- What have been the most effective solutions and technologies that contributed/sustained learning continuity (both with teachers and learners) at the pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary levels?
- How can research help assess government efforts to improve policy and practice to sustain learning during crises? How can indigenous knowledge and African-driven innovations and solutions help to build more robust and resilient educational systems in the continent?
- The COVID-19 pandemic learning recovery: What type of policies, programs, and partnerships are needed to build back better? How can we build back better with women and youth-led innovations? What lessons from the implementation of remote education programs and policies, can be learned to improve education quality and develop a resilient recovery post-Covid-19?
- What can COVID-19 teach us about the ability of education systems to absorb the shock of a crisis? What are most urgent challenges faced by African countries, in addressing learning losses, re-examining learning assessments, and reconsidering teacher training? And how can we turn the learning losses suffered by students into valuable lessons for the future?
These questions are the tip of an iceberg, leading to ongoing emerging issues that could be discussed at the Triennale such as the need of scaling up distance learning solutions, how to improve teacher and student preparedness for future crises, how to bring more education resources in open access domain; how to improve back to school delivery approaches, learning assessment and recovery and finally how to reimagine partnerships and education financing strategies.
As previously indicated, various participants intervened to share their perspectives and initiatives related to this subtheme on COVID-19 impact on education. Mr Borhene Chakroun (UNESCO), finally informed about the existence of relevant World Bank studies on learning poverty and highlighted the need for the Triennale to “translate commitment into a road map of priority actions” that are owned and implemented by African countries in close collaboration with private and nonprofit actors.
Mr Samuel Olawale from USAID EDC highlighted the need of developing more “cohesive data reporting systems” to consistently make informed decisions and plans. Dr Joyce Moriku Kaducu, Minister of State for Primary Education in Uganda reemphasized the need to always consider contextual and sociocultural realities when developing any solution. Other, like Prof. Raja Sannasee (SADC), focused on the need of including Internally Displaced Constituency such as street children and refugees as is the case in countries such as Uganda, Kenya, and Zimbabwe.
Mr Hiba Mohamed from the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) reinforced the strategic role of education financing and shared how the GPE was providing regional grants to teachers’ institutions and providing capacity building for teachers and learners. And Dr Sajitha Bashir expressed the need for the Triennale to also prioritize education financing and the growing inequality in education: “while the majority of students suffer (learning losses etc.), some kids are okay because they are in elite private schools, parents at home were supporting them etc.”
All stakeholders were unanimous on the need of having a clear roadmap from the Triennale to ensure the implementation of recommendations. There is also a need for the Triennale to build upon the foundations that would have been laid at the Transforming Education Summit (TES) in September 2022.