Sub-Saharan African nations should accelerate curriculum reforms, modernised learning facilities and invest in capacity building for tutors in their quest to improve literacy and numeracy skills among children, campaigners said on Tuesday.
Speaking at a forum in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital, the campaigners stressed that Africa’s ability to realise inclusive growth, equity, cohesion, and shared prosperity hinged on ensuring all children attain literacy skills that meet the global threshold.
Armando Ali, the Chief Executive Officer of People’s Action for Learning (PAL) Network, a coalition of organisations promoting childhood literacy in the global south, said that for Africa to transition seamlessly to a knowledge-based economy, the continent must invest in programs that seek to improve foundational learning outcomes for children.
“We ought to work collaboratively, share knowledge and best practices in order to improve numeracy and literacy skills for children under the age of ten,” Ali remarked.
Convened by PAL and partners, the two-day regional policy dialogue on emerging issues in foundational literacy and numeracy in Africa is being attended by senior policymakers, campaigners, researchers and child rights advocates.
Statistics from the World Bank indicate that nine out of ten children in Sub-Saharan Africa fail to attain basic reading and numeracy skills by the age of ten compared to developed economies where only one out of ten children do not attain similar skills at the age of ten.
Graca Machel, co-founder and deputy chair of the Elders and ex-First Lady of Mozambique and South Africa, said that investing in childhood literacy is both a human right and an economic imperative for a continent striving to shake off poverty, inequality and social tensions.
According to Machel, equipping children with technical knowledge and life skills will boost Africa’s economic transformation besides tackling early marriages, teenage pregnancies, crime and substance abuse.
Machel added that governments should enact policies and legislation, and invest in supportive infrastructure to realize a 100 percent transition from primary to secondary school education for African children.
Sara Ruto, former chief administrative secretary in Kenya’s Ministry of Education noted that the implementation of a competence-based curriculum, engaging households and communities, and retraining tutors, has proved effective in boosting childhood literacy in Africa.
In addition, Ruto said that governments should leverage data, peer-learning, enhanced monitoring, and evaluation in their bid to tackle bottlenecks that prevent children from acquiring basic numeracy and literacy skills.