AU-EU Partnership Prioritises Education for a Brighter Future

Jutta Urpilainen EU Commissioner for International Partnerships

By Amin Kef Sesay

According to the AU-EU Partnership for a Better Future the COVID-19 pandemic has compounded the learning crisis in Africa by severely limiting access education.

By early April 2020, it was stated, the crisis had left more than 20 million pre-primary, 160 million primary, 56 million secondary, and 8 million tertiary level learners out of school with no access to continued learning and teaching facilities across the continent.

It highlighted that people are the most important resource they have and in the next 15 years, 450 million young Africans will be looking to either find or create a job for themselves.

Asking the questions, Will they be able to build a career in one of the emerging sectors? Will they have the right skills and competences to meet the evolving demands of the labour market? The answer is yes – yes, if they act now.

The partnership said it is crucial that they invest in the future and allocate adequate funds to education today, enabling the necessary reforms.

It was pointed out that the European Union (EU) intends to increase spending on education in partner countries covered by the International Partnerships portfolio from 7% to 10%.

“The African Union (AU) encourages its Member States to increase their budget allocations for education, and to improve overall domestic resource mobilisation,” it was suggested adding how mobilising more resources and improving spending are central to quality education systems and to improving resilience to future shocks.

Both continued that there is also a need to innovate the development, provision and delivery of education at all levels, taking advantage of digital learning.

They added that the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 16-25) emphasises the need to harness the capacity of ICT to improve access, quality and management of education and training systems in Africa.

The partnership stated that there is no doubt that digital learning opportunities have immense potential to transform education and training through greater accessibility, affordability, and relevance.

“Furthermore, hybrid learning models and the application of modern technologies in other aspects of education beyond delivery is essential to guarantee the quality of learning, while reducing inefficiencies,” it was underscored.

They expressed the conviction that partnerships will be another key part of the solution – including partnerships with civil society, the private sector, and global education partners.

It stated that in the new EU–Africa Strategy, under “Partnership for sustainable growth and jobs, the European Union aims to focus on education, skills, research and innovation in Africa which means improving access to inclusive and equitable quality education for all.

“Partnerships will be sought for developing innovative approaches and improving learning outcomes that can meet future demands, including in emerging fields such as the digital sector and green and climate-friendly technologies,” they maintained stating that the EU will focus on supporting the availability and quality of teachers at all levels of education disclosing that it is estimated that around 17 million teachers will be needed in sub-Saharan Africa by 2030 to achieve universal primary and secondary education.

“The EU is committed to working with its Member States in a ‘Team Europe’ spirit to deliver maximum impact,” it assured saying in Mozambique, for example, the EU and Member States are preparing an ‘E-YOUTH’ Initiative, which will help better match competence-based vocational education and training with the needs of the market, so that young Mozambicans can access jobs more easily.

It was said the Initiative will also empower girls and women by supporting them to enter science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields of study, and by promoting coding.

“Promoting innovations that safeguard gender responsive education and education for refugees, persons living with disabilities and special needs, and those living in underserved communities should also be prioritised in order to ensure these children are not disproportionately affected by the current changes in education delivery,” it was mentioned going further to point out that adopting sustainable innovations in education delivery and management in Africa means improving education quality for all, so that everyone can reach their full potential.

According to the partnership, the education event, “Building Skills for the Future”, hosted by the AU, EU and UNICEF on the 20th April marked a major milestone in the partnership of the EU and AU, and in their joint work on education.

Both agree on the importance of quality, inclusive and equitable education for all, at all levels, and the critical importance of increased investment and partnerships in achieving that.

They said their joint actions will focus on strengthening education systems at all levels, pay particular attention to protecting the gains that Africa has made in addressing the learning crisis, to addressing inequalities in access and learning, and to matching skills with jobs.

“We will seek to harness the potential of digital learning and to build digital competencies while bridging the digital divide,” they resolved.

The partnership stated that decisions on the future relationship of the two continents will be taken at the EU-AU summit, but they we can say already today: education will be a top priority of the partnership, as the foundation for a successful, prosperous and sustainable future for both continents.


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