Gender-responsive education systems are key to Africa’s development agenda

Despite efforts made to advance girls’ rights to access education in Africa, the school life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa is 9 years. The Gender Equality Strategy for the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 16-25 could play a key role in assisting countries to reorient their education systems and ensure that girls and women acquire the necessary tools to foster Africa’s development.

January 31, 2020 by Rita Bissoonauth, African Union International Center for Girls and Women’s Education in Africa
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4 minute read
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Aichetou Mint Mohamed Ali, 14, in class at College Riyad 5, Tarhil, Nouakchott, Mauritania. Aishetu is in class 8, the second year of lower primary. Mauritania.
Aichetou Mint Mohamed Ali, 14, in class at College Riyad 5, Tarhil, Nouakchott, Mauritania. Aishetu is in class 8, the second year of lower primary. Mauritania.
GPE/Kelley Lynch

Africa is firmly committed to transforming its education. To achieve the ideal of a prosperous, peaceful and integrated Africa, there is a need to take the necessary measures to ensure that all citizens fully participate in the development process. Education is one the cornerstones towards achieving this objective.

In spite of the efforts made to advance girls’ rights to access education in Africa, the school life expectancy in sub-Saharan Africa is 9 years (UNESCO 2016). Therefore, the objective of 12 years of quality education remains a distant reality for millions of girls on the continent.

Hence the urgent need to speed up the establishment of gender-sensitive education systems to ensure that girls and women can fully participate in the teaching and learning process.

A gender strategy to support Africa’s education strategy

During the 3rd African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Education, Science and Technology (STC-EST) in December 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the importance of integrating gender in education sector planning was underscored by the ministers and senior officials who attended the meeting.

The Gender Equality Strategy for the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 16-25 (GES4CESA) is a tool developed to assist Member States in reorienting their education and training systems in order to ensure that as many girls and women acquire the knowledge, competencies, skills, innovation and creativity required to foster Africa’s development.

GES4CESA was jointly developed by the AU/CIEFFA and the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) with the support of United Nations Girl’s Education Initiative (UNGEI). Other key partners like GPE attended the validation meeting and made inputs.

It is incredibly important as a strong continental normative framework that articulates gender equality commitments for the continent, alongside Agenda 2063, and the Nairobi Declaration. Arguably, no other region has such a powerful accountability mechanism at this point, but it will require concerted effort and capacity for countries to deliver on these commitments.

This will play a key role in closing the gaps we currently observe in educational systems on the continent”, outlined H.E. Prof. Sarah Anyang Agbor, Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology of the African Union Commission.

The popularization of the GES4CESA was underscored by participants in order to accelerate its ownership at national level. To this end, they urged the AU/CIEFFA and its partners to develop strategies in order to raise awareness on this very important document and strengthen countries’ capacities for its smooth implementation at national level.

Experiences from Malawi, South Sudan and Zimbabwe clearly showed that countries having undergone training sessions on gender-responsive education sector planning (GRESP) and GES4CESA have good performance indicators on girls’ and women’s education.

GRESP regional training workshops are convened by UNGEI and GPE with support from regional partners, including the AU-CIEFFA and FAWE. They have been critical in advancing a gender transformative agenda in partnership with regional and global partners.

Prioritizing an inclusive approach

However, the successful implementation of this tool and other instruments developed by other development stakeholders can only work if an inclusive and participatory approach is adopted to effectively engender education systems in Africa.

In this regard, the AU/CIEFFA was encouraged by ministers to keep engaging different stakeholders namely the Pan Parliament, Regional Economic Communities, African Union organs and specialized Institutions, traditional and religious leaders, CSOs, media, the youth and especially the African governments for the implementation of policies pertaining to girls and women’s education.

There is a need to enhance coherence and ensure maximum impact through coordination and alignment of the various initiatives targeting girls and women’s education. These actors will also monitor countries efforts toward achieving concrete results and hold them accountable.

Collaboration with these partners increases the chances to overcome challenges hampering girls’ retention and completion in schools such as early marriage, pregnancies, non-gender sensitive teaching and learning environments, conflicts, etc.

Ministers of Education requested Members States to implement additional measures to increase enrollment and retention of girls in educational systems and support the transition of girls to higher education in collaboration with relevant stakeholders.

Gender at the center of education in emergencies

Putting gender at the center of education in emergencies was one of the recommendations from the meeting as the African Union will be focusing on the theme “silencing the guns” during the year 2020.

UNHCR (2016) estimated that for every 10 refugee boys in primary school there are fewer than 8 refugee girls. This implies the need for a gender-responsive education program encompassing the narrative of girls and young women growing up in crisis-affected contexts in order to strengthen their resilience and potential to rebuild their lives and shape their communities. 

This is in line with the GES4CESA, which calls for “mobilizing communities and galvanizing resources for the Go-to-school/Back-to-school/Stay-in-school campaigns to help in healing societies, putting them back on the road to recovery and normalcy and make them hopeful of a more peaceful and prosperous future.”

Africa’s development objectives will only be met through education if leaders fully implement laws and frameworks aiming to put in place fully inclusive education systems.

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Gender equality
Sub-Saharan Africa

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Girls' education is the best for their future that means if one was educated she will cover a whole family at every side economy and educating kids at home and school.
I, Sadik train 50 girls office program and every four months they complete a course then they soon get job from NGOs and private companies.

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