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Pandemic worsening Africa’s education weaknesses, say ministers

Image: SuSanA Secretariat [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons 

Call for collective action to avoid educational collapse on the continent

Weaknesses in Africa’s education systems are being worsened by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, science and education ministers from a handful of countries said last week.

The closure of schools, colleges and universities in recent weeks is disrupting the education calendar and social safety nets like school feeding programmes, the ministers from Ghana, Libya and Namibia said.

“The longer children and young people stay away from school the less likely they are ever to return to school,” they agreed, according to a statement put out by the African Union on 9 April. 

“Unless we collectively act now to protect education systems by providing alternative learning platforms and complementary programmes, societies and economies will feel the burden long after Covid-19,” added the ministers, who met virtually as bureau members of the AU’s Specialized Technical Committee on Education Science and Technology.

The STC-EST is the AU’s science and education policymaking organ. Its bureau is elected every two years. 

The bureau emphasised the need to support science and technology to fight the Covid-19 pandemic. It reaffirmed an old but unoperationalised resolution to create an African education, science, technology and innovation fund, and requested the AU Commission and the African Development Bank to move that stalled initiative forward. 

The bureau also agreed to call a virtual STC-EST meeting for 21 April, which will bring together all relevant ministers from AU member states to discuss a way forward for science and education on the continent.