Significant increases in financing required to overcome learning poverty

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Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Attaa says significant increases in financing for education is necessary if Africa is to overcome the learning poverty that entrenches inter-generational household poverty.

Finance Minister Ken Ofori-Attaa says significant increases in financing for education is necessary if Africa is to overcome the learning poverty that entrenches inter-generational household poverty.

Despite progress in access to education over the last decades, 80 percent of 10-year-old children in the region are unable to read and understand a simple text; and more than 32 million children remain out of school… the largest share of the world’s out-of-school children.

Addressing delegations at the launch of the Regional Strategy for supporting education in the 22 countries of Central and Western Africa, Mr. Ofori-Atta said bold and urgent action to reverse this trend by advancing reforms in education and delivering better access to quality education for all children in the region is needed, adding that we should no longer tolerate these cruel facts.

Some cruel facts about the region’s educational system include chronic underperformance and higher deficits in teachers, with nearly a third of Africa’s illiterate adult population living in West Africa. Adult illiteracy is also acute in Central Africa, where one in three adults is illiterate; as well, nearly 42 million children of primary and secondary school-age children are not enrolled in school: that is, two out of five schoolchildren who drop out of school in Africa are in Western Africa.

Available data suggest that in Western Africa the average primary completion rate is only 53 percent, as against 83 percent in Northern Africa; also, there is a significant Education Infrastructural (physical and digital) deficit.

“We must therefore remain focused on helping our 30 million children to read by 2030, and ensure that 12.5 million more adolescent girls are in school by 2030,” the minister said. “We must train at least 3.7 million more young adults in foundational skills by 2025; and ensure that at least 1 million more youth acquire digital skills by 2025 – of whom 60 percent will be expected to obtain better jobs.

“Undeniably, a significant increase in financing is necessary if we are to overcome the learning poverty. Spending must significantly rise above the recommended 4.1 percent of GDP on education if we are to compete on the global scale. This implies almost doubling the education expenditure levels, as a proportion of GDP, from the current 3.1 percent and 4 percent in Central and Western Africa respectively.

“The strategy also empowers countries to pursue diversity: that is, balancing TVET; the promotion of science, arts and culture; and targetting sports and special schools in the educational system. This determined and systematic agenda will contribute to ending the culture of failure for most people and households,” he added.

The World Bank Vice President for Western and Central Africa, Ousmane Diagana, indicated that the Bank will double its financing for the region from the current amount of US$3.1billion to US$6billion.

“We have, currently, a portfolio of US$3.1billion for the education sector only. We want to double this amount to US$6billion, by 2025,” he said.

During the event, ministers of education and finance from across the region discussed the need to scale-up reforms and build a coalition to improve education outcomes in Western and Central African countries.

Education is the cornerstone of development. It is an essential driver of stability, social cohesion, and peace. The analysis also shows that there are many innovations and successful programmes from across the continent which demonstrate tremendous results can be achieved when leadership and political will are met with adequate funding.

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