/ 5 October 2018

Experts gather to disrupt continent’s education

The education of the African child is fraught with problems.
The education of the African child is fraught with problems. (Graphic: John McCann/M&G)

By adopting the theme of Disrupting African Education, the Fundi Education Forum 2018 will bring together former heads of African states, educators, business leaders, billionaires, students and innovators in an effort to solve some of the problems in education and learning in Africa.

The collective experience of the former president of Benin, Nicephore Soglo, former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete, former Kenyan prime minister Raila Odinga and former South African president Kgalema Motlanthe is invaluable institutional knowledge that will guide conversations at the forum.

The forum, which takes place on October 29 at the Sandton International Convention Centre, in partnership with the African Presidential Leadership Centre, will allow such veterans, innovators and students to build partnerships and collaborations that ultimately create a single-source digital platform to house everything necessary to enable lifelong learning.

The education of the African child is fraught with problems that range from physical security in countries fighting wars to not producing sufficient skills for the middle-income economies most African countries have made their holy grail.

The current numbers concerning the education of children in Africa tell a frightening story, with only one in 10 young people in low-income countries on track to gain basic secondary-level skills by 2030.

Governments throughout Africa have increased their investment in education and members of international agreements such as the United Nations millennium development goals have committed themselves to investing more in improving education so as to meet the goals set for 2015-2030.

The private sector, by increasing investment in education with their social responsibility programmes, has also become more involved in improving education.

But, with their primary concern being to deliver value for shareholders and build a pipeline of competent employees, their focus is career-centred education such as science, technology, engineering, maths, entrepreneurship and workforce training.

New players in the development space, the billionaires’ club of private foundations has taken an interest in the improvement of education in Africa, with education philanthropy as part of their portfolio of giving.

Recently, to harness all this enthusiasm and energy into improving education, there have been burgeoning collaborations and partnerships in which African governments, business, peers, private foundations and civil society can leverage each other’s core strengths.

Some of these collaborations and partnerships have focused on consolidating funding and investment in education. The Education Commission of the International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity aims to multiply donor resources and motivate countries to increase their own investments, hoping to open up new avenues for the funding of education.

There have also been government and business partnerships that have focused purely on skills development within a specific industry, such as the Higher Education Partnerships in sub-Saharan Africa, which were between the Anglo Gold Foundation and the government of the United Kingdom.

Others such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Hewlett Foundation have built partnerships focused on aligning their objectives and building common strategies.

The expectations and positive sentiment around the fourth industrial revolution, digitisation and digitalisation have ignited a new spark of discussions around education;a hope for the possibility of a silver bullet to industrialising solutions for African education.

For Fundi, the convergence of education, technology and financial services bodes well for a significant contribution to education challenges.

But, with all the difficulties and opportunities in education no one organisation, government, institution or business will have the stamina or resources to contribute single-handedly.

Current achievements and failures have proven that all stakeholders must develop common goals and agree on strategies, taking into account the different operational competence of the players.

If collaborations and partnerships are the future for improving education in Africa, they are going to have to achieve more and develop a holistic approach with the child as the key focus.

Mala Suriah is chief marketing officer of Fundi