Can civil society organizations help ensure every child's right to an education in Africa?
Africa is home to the world's youngest population, and digital technologies offer civil society an opportunity to reimagine education for every child.
The African continent has made significant progress in realizing children's rights to education. However, there were approximately 105 million children of primary and secondary school age out of school in Africa in 2019, representing 41 per cent of the global total. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated this situation - in 2020, around 250 million students in Sub-Saharan Africa saw their schools close.
But as the youngest population in the world, the resolve to overcome these challenges is strong. New technologies and an expanding digital world are a bright light at the end of a dark tunnel. Indeed, digital technology and its role in ensuring every child's right to an education was the theme of a recent event co-hosted by UNICEF and the China NGOs Network for International Exchanges (CNIE). Below are some results from this event.
"Millions of children and young people in Africa are in danger of being left behind. International and local NGOs, as well as the private sector, can play an important role in supporting children and youth education programmes in Africa."
"Education is one of the key priorities for Africa's cooperation with China and under the South-South cooperation framework. Africa is also working with international organizations like UNICEF and CSOs in the implementation of the SDGs and the Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA)."
"To some degree, the COVID-19 pandemic has also provided an opportunity to reimagine education in Africa for safe, healthy, and inclusive schools, greater use of digital technologies, and teachers who are well trained to bring these technologies to life to help children learn."
"It's important to invest in digital education devices and content, qualified teachers, better data production and its usage, and children's holistic needs in health, nutrition, psychosocial safety, and so on to keep them continuing school."
Mr Nicolas Reuge, Senior Advisor Education, UNICEF
"A comprehensive emergency response plan to improve system preparedness and resilience is necessary."
Mr Fu Ning, Education Officer, UNICEF China
"We need to achieve the SDG 4 targets for quality education, so for the China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation we also made our efforts in Africa. All our projects target students, so we call them education development projects."
Mr. Wu Peng, Director of the International Development Department, China Foundation for Poverty Alleviation
"One of the biggest strengths of CSOs is advocacy and policy engagement, so by sharing experience of what you have done in China and in Africa, we will be able to document good practices, support evidence and push policies that can support digital learning……An African proverb says, if you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go with others."
Ms Faraja Nyalandu, Chief Executive Officer, Shule Direct, Tanzania
"Our projects are not only giving them fish but also fish nets and teaching them how to fish, or how to sell the fish even. All of what we do in facilities is to bridge and facilitate those children and young people to have opportunities in education so that they can later change their lives by themselves."
Ms Zheng Wei, Assistant General Secretary, Amity Foundation
"We hope to identify the challenges, understand why these challenges exist and how they can be addressed and create solutions that can make a real difference."
Mr Aliou Oumarou, Commissioner General of Scouts of Niger
"If we talk about CSOs or NGOs in China, each of them will be very small and are making a minimum contribution, but if we are able to join all the forces and resources together, then for NGOs and CSOs in China and Africa, we will be able to change the world."
"How we can serve the public good, how we can serve the local technology for the innovations, and how we can serve the best practices, data, and evidence to strengthen the digital learning more and more for the children… How CSOs can come together along with countries and UN agencies to address these are important."
"With our initiatives and projects, we are thinking about how to align the SDG 4 on education, we are thinking about how to improve education facilities to improve education quality, to improve enrollment rates, especially for girls."
The purpose of the gathering was to strengthen solidarity and consensus on achieving key results for children in Africa, focusing on education. Participants from international and national civil society organizations in China and Africa, international organizations, the Chinese government and the Senegalese government, the African Union and the private sector joined the meeting and shared their insights.