African civil society is committed to strengthening accountability initiatives to achieve inclusive and equitable quality education in Africa.

The 9th Pan-African Forum on Education Policies, organised by ANCEFA in collaboration with COSYDEP, was held 2-4 September, 2019, in Dakar. The theme of the three day forum, which facilitated participant reflection and exchanges, was: “Strengthening civil society’s accountability initiatives and channels to achieve inclusive and equitable education in Africa”. Members of the 39 ANCEFA national coalitions and the implementing partners of regional and global education projects and programs including GCE, GPEUNESCO, Oxfam Ghana, Oxfam Ibis, Humanity & InclusionAction Aid, Educo, FAWEOSIWA, and Action Against Hunger reviewed the progress made to achieve SDG4 and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 2016-2025). This forum was an opportunity to review the implementation of the Civil Society Education Fund (CSEF) and focus on its following program Education Out Loud (EOL). The official opening remarks were made by Senegal’s Minister of National Education, Mamadou Talla, commending “the efforts of civil society to provide Africa with effective human resources immersed in African values”.

Some achievements, but progress is slow overall

The review of SDG4, and more particularly African education programs, showed the persisting challenges of education access and quality for marginalised groups. The provision of quality education is insufficient due to the large shortage of qualified teachers. In sub-Saharan Africa, according to UNESCO, only 64% of primary school teachers and 50% of secondary school teachers have received the minimum training required for inclusive quality education. The region has the lowest percentages, as well as having a student/teacher ratio of 60/1, according to UNESCO’s 2019 Global Education Monitoring Report.

Furthermore, the education sector faces new challenges such as security. Internal conflicts and terrorist attacks that lead to population displacements reduce the chances of success for students. Threats to teachers, attacks destroying school infrastructure, and the use of schools for military purposes have disrupted the education of more than 400,000 children in West Africa and forced more than 10,000 teachers to not work or travel to schools.

“The quality of education is still a real problem, we are progressing slowly. Progress in Africa is often limited by new challenges such as security including conflicts, which hampers the implementation of quality education for all” said Mr. Samuel Dembélé, Chairman of the Board of Directors for ANCEFA. He stated that there was a need “to identify the new challenges, added to the long-standing unresolved challenges. It is about defining an overall strategy”. President of the Board of Directors for COSYDEP, Ms. Hélène Rama Niang, said there was a need to “redouble efforts, multiply, intensify and target our initiatives for the most vulnerable populations so they can benefit from government interventions”.

A civil society that is stronger, more diverse and more engaged in policy dialogue

Before the start of the working sessions, the Regional Coordinator of ANCEFA, Ms. Teopista Birungi Mayanja, called for the repositioning of ANCEFA and the national coalitions to explore innovative and creative strategies to drive fast change for transformative education.

Participants discussed the state of their country’s education policies, advocacy initiatives and progress. They also reviewed the engagement of civil society in policy dialogue, particularly funded by CSEF, a GCE initiative supported by GPE in the past decade, which ends in December 2019. Oxfam Ibis, the partner of the new funding mechanism Education Out Loud, and the GPE also facilitated an important discussion about this new funding opportunity and explained the expectations for both sides.

Through interactive presentations and fruitful discussions, participants also exchanged views on the 2019 high-level political forum on SDG4 held in July in New York under the auspices of ECOSOC. Participants discussed regional and national initiatives to involve more youth, especially girls, in the education campaign, in advocacy for transformative education, and in the implementation of inclusive education policies on gender and disabilities.

A capacity building session on education financing, including issues of privatization and fiscal justice, led to an internal debate and confirmed ANCEFA’s alignment with GCE’s position in favor of strengthening public education and against the rampant privatization and commodification of education. The Abidjan Principles were presented to the participants to illustrate how they can be used to advocate for education that respects human rights and to call on states to fulfil their supervising and regulative role.

At the end of the working sessions, the African civil society under the auspices of ANCEFA renewed its commitment for the implementation of quality education programs aimed at achieving equitable and inclusive education for all for the Agenda 2030 and the Continental Strategy 2016-2025. The African civil society committed to the mobilization of its members, from the community level to the national level, to monitor for education funding that addresses issues of fiscal justice, equity, and inclusion of all vulnerable and marginalised populations. They also reaffirmed the anchoring of the education campaign at the national level and its links with other regional networks and with GCE internationally. The coordination of these actions bring undeniable added value to regional advocacy.

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The Global Campaign for Education (GCE) is a civil society movement that aims to end exclusion in education. Education is a basic human right, and our mission is to make sure that governments act now to deliver the right of everyone to a free, quality, public education.