PAP MPs in consensus on education as cornerstone of continental development
“Without education there can be no development.” This sentiment was echoed by all parliamentarians at the Pan- African Parliament (PAP) today, before adopting a report that was presented by Hon. Mr Abdou Ndiaye, Chairperson of the Permanent Committee on Education, Culture Tourism and Human Resources during proceedings. Said Hon. Mr David Ernest Silinde from Tanzania: “The questions we should ask; are simple. What kind of education does Africa have? What kind of education does Africa want? But most importantly, what is the priority of education in Africa?”
The African Union (AU) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) co-organised an education forum on evaluation of Education For All (EFA) and the Second Decade of Education for Africa, in Kigali, Rwanda, from 08 to 11 February 2015. The Forum gathered all the AU Ministers of Education. Taking stock of the outcomes of the Forum, the AU would engage in developing a continental Strategy for Education that would take into account the recommendations from debates and the current needs for Africa’s sustainable development.
In this regard, His Excellency Dr Martial De-Paul Ikounga, the AU Commissioner for Human Resource, Science and Technology, invited the PAP to be involved in the process of developing the continental Strategy for Education. The report that was presented in Parliament; provided an overview and feedback on the non-statutory meeting of the Permanent Committee on Education, Culture Tourism and Human Resources that has since taken place from 20 – 22 August 2015 in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.
In the debates that followed the presentation, it soon became clear that parliamentarians were in consensus that education has to be a priority in African governments’ budgets to elevate it to the ideal status. Hon. Mr Moustafa El Gendy and Hon. Prof. Elsayed Felyfel from Egypt stated that there is a lesson to be learnt from the Egyptian government as their constitution states that percentage of their budget has to be allocated to education. “As per the constitution, education is the right of each citizen. It is therefore mandatory for Government to commit 4% of its budget to education,” explained Mr Gendy.
Hon. Mrs Veronica Nataniel Macamo Dlovo from Mozambique agreed that an increased budget can have a significant impact on the status quo of education. “More dedicated resources made it possible for the Mozambican government to for example offer free education and school books. As a result, the percentage of people in Mozambique who could not read - was reduced from 93% to the current 43%.”
Parliamentarians suggested that support to disadvantaged families could also have a significant influence on education. “A child cannot concentrate when he has a hungry stomach,” said Hon. Mr Bashir Ali Mohamed Al-Bathani from Sudan. “The Sudanese government has food programmes to hand out free food to children from poor families. In addition, there are a lot of underprivileged families in rural areas who are forced to let their children work from an early age. To enable them to send them to school instead, the Sudanese government also hands out free food to these unfortunate families.”
Other issues that were brought to the table - were the unemployment of the youth and scarce skills. Hon. Mrs Marie Mediatrice Izabiliza from Rwanda pointed out that the large numbers of youth that immigrate to Europe is a direct result of unemployment. “The government in Rwanda set an objective to create 200,000 jobs for members of the youth per year and mechanisms and strategies were put in place to accomplish this. Subsequently, the country is now able to offer jobs to 140,000 members of the youth every year.” She also mentioned that the public and private sectors in Rwanda collaborate to run competitions to encourage members of the youth to submit projects in areas where there are scarce skills, such as science and technology. “Rwanda for example had a critical issue with public transport, and it was a member of the youth who conceptualised a solution to solve it,” she enthused.