Africa’s path to prosperity will be defined by the quality of our schools, and secondary school is the critical link that prepares young people to succeed in the workplace.
President Paul Kagame said Thursday, August 13, that the extent to which Africa is able to build quality schools will define its journey towards prosperity.
Secondary education, in particular, will be key to prepare young people for the future, he told participants during the launch of Mastercard Foundation’s ‘Secondary Education in Africa’ report.
The report, launched Thursday, puts emphasis on the need for the continent to invest more in secondary education, considered a key education level for young people.
“Africa’s path to prosperity will be defined by the quality of our schools, and secondary school is the critical link that prepares young people to succeed in the workplace,” Kagame noted.
The President said the principles highlighted in the report are critical to adapt secondary education systems for the future.
“Digital literacy, science and technology have to be absolutely essential because the world of work is going to continue to change in unpredictable ways,” he said.
“No less important are soft skills which the report aptly characterizes as twenty-first-century skills such as teamwork, critical thinking and communication,” he added.
The Head of State highlighted that there is a need to ensure that curriculum reforms are matched by updated assessments and exam methods. “We have to not only teach the right things, but also test for the right things.”
The African context, Kagame said, demands increased flexibility in qualifications frameworks, so that young people who are forced by hardship to leave school, can more easily resume their studies.
Evidence in the report shows that the same flexibility needs to be applied to technical and vocational education as well.
“Students should be able to move back and forth between TVET and general education with less difficulty. This would go a long way to correcting negative perceptions of TVET held by many families on our continent,” he noted.
Prepare youth for work
Secondary education is considered the last formal schooling from which the majority of young people enter the world of work.
Reeta Roy, the President of Mastercard Foundation said there is no question that secondary education can similarly improve the fortunes of young people as they drive inclusive economic prosperity across the continent.
However, the report highlights that the changing nature of work demands premium skills that can help young people in Africa be adaptable, resilient and creative problem-solvers.
Secondary school enrolment across the continent is expected to double by 2030, representing additional 46 million students at the secondary level in the next ten years.
The demand for secondary school students will also rise. Some 10 million teachers will be needed in the same period.
According to Roy, it will require attracting brightest, smartest young people who are passionate about building a career in education.
“We have learned that change is possible, that even the smallest, smartest adjustments can create a huge difference,” she said.
She added that previous experience proves that innovation doesn’t need to be expensive and out of reach, and that “collaboration is essential if we are to have impact in education.”
The launch of the report, which featured Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the former President of Liberia, comes at a time the continent and the whole world is grappling with the novel Coronavirus pandemic.
At the height of the outbreak, more than 250 million children and youth were out of school in Sub-Saharan Africa, according to data compiled by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).
That is in addition to 97 million children and youth in Africa that were not enrolled in the education system prior to the pandemic.
“As we recover from this current crisis, it is my strong belief that collaborative partnership is key to re-imagining a secondary education system that is fit for our future,” Sirleaf noted.