At the heart of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) and many other human rights conventions is education as a fundamental human right.
Yet owing to socio-cultural, religious and economic factors, millions of children and adults are unable to explore educational opportunities.
Education in itself is the most strategic tool to lift marginalised populations out of poverty and meeting all the Sustainable Development Goals.
As the world marks the International Day of Education today (24 January), which was declared by the United Nations General Assembly in 2018, we call on governments of African nations to commit more politically into education, drive inclusiveness by deploying education for peace and development.
When children are denied their right to Education, their community is deprived of a sustainable future. This is why education is the most essential vehicle for driving substantial progress in health, economic growth and innovation which invariably offers a more environmentally resilient society.
Damning global figures show worsening inequalities between rich and poor families, between boys and girls and between rural and urban areas – over 600 million children and adolescents unable to read and do basic numeracy; three out of five girls in sub-Saharan Africa are unable to complete junior secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are on the loose – out of school, roaming.
Aside from being a fundamental right and tool for public good, education and relearning are humanity’s greatest renewable resource.
Malnutrition and food insecurity are products of poverty and inequitable distribution of opportunities, but it also suggests inadequate knowledge of nutritional facts and production methods.
Hungry children will not go to school. Children with failing health will not go to school. When they do, their performance is easily impaired by ill-health and poor nutrition. Hunger-poverty-malnutrition-lower life prospects-joblessness-poverty. And the cycle carries on!
Through basic and relevant education, marginalised people learn more about health. They are better able to protect themselves and their children against diseases. Wellness among children improves if their parents have had quality education. Increased access to education can reduce troubled learning and contribute to reducing poverty.
These educational poverty gaps between genders, the disconnect between the rich and poor families, and disparities between rural and urban areas are best closed by measured investment in social progress and human capital through education.
Learning can empower people, preserve the planet, boost shared prosperity and foster peace. Africa’s education strategy must align with the Global Education 2030 Programme.
To root Africa firmly within the core of the global knowledge economy, we need a paradigm shift towards functional education and training systems to meet the skills, innovation, creativity and competencies required to promote sustainable development.
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