Impact of COVID-19 on Africa's Education: Reflecting on Promising Interventions and Challenges, towards a New Normal

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought a new reality that necessitates a rethinking of education delivery, with technology coming into sharp focus as an enabler to such a delivery. Addressing the challenge of delivering quality education equitably and inclusively, a ghost that perennially haunts most African countries, requires out-of-the-box ideas and strategies, least of which is the deployment of a multi- pronged approach as one solution does not fit all situations. In his opening speech during the virtual education forum organized by ADEA and the African Development Bank Group in July 2020, the Chairperson of the African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Education, Science and Technology (AU STC- EST), Hon. Tumwesigye Elioda who is also the Chairperson of the ADEA Steering Committee, and the Uganda Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, observed that the COVID-19 pandemic will increase disparities in education between the African continent and the rest of the world, and widen the intra- African variability where some countries cannot afford to invest in digital learning infrastructure and platforms.

“Digital transformation is an indispensable prerequisite for economic transformation and the survival of our people. We need to see how to provide quickly digital education/ learning as a new normal in order to provide appropriate skills to knowledge transfer. And we also need to ensure support for innovative infrastructure, workspaces, and common user facilities.”

Hon. Tumwesigye Elioda, Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Uganda.

As McKinsey (2020) points out, effective primary and secondary education will be indispensable in a transition period to a more automated future in which innovation will play a key role, in addition to expanding vocational training and apprenticeships to ease transitions into work in a more digital world. The recently released UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report (2020) casts a spotlight on inclusivity, recommending a deeper understanding of inclusive education to mean equal access for all learners, notwithstanding identity, background, or ability. The report observes that “the COVID-19 pandemic has further exposed and deepened inequalities and the fragility of our societies.”

Since March 2020, the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) has been engaging African countries to appreciate the strategies they are implementing in the current situation and their level of effectiveness in ensuring that learning continues in a manner that is as inclusive as possible within the many constraints, and their plans regarding the reopening of learning institutions as well as future preparation for the sector based on the COVID-19 experience.

“This report, and the virtual forum, is focused on the impact of COVID-19 on Africa’s education system and the reflections on challenges and promising interventions toward a new normal. The main message is: no learner should be left behind.”

Mr. Albert Nsengiyumva, Executive Sectretary, ADEA.

This report is a synopsis of the ongoing engagement and aims to create greater awareness of ongoing country-level initiatives. It also seeks to highlight what works, the gaps and the issues with which countries continue to grapple, and how to support countries as they move towards a new normal where they will be better positioned to manage a future COVID-19 like situation. The report provides the update resulting from the already published report of the initial engagement with 14 African countries between April and May 2020, the feedback from 9 African countries (Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali, Mauritius, Morocco, Rwanda, and South Africa) in June 2020 coupled with the follow up virtual stakeholder engagement that ADEA and the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) organized in July 2020 involving Ministers and senior government officials comprising 6 African ministers of education (The Central African Republic, the Gambia, Ghana, Mauritius, Rwanda, and Uganda) and 7 government representatives (Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Kenya, Senegal, South Africa, and Tunisia), 5 development partners (GPE, IDRC, Mastercard Foundation, UNESCO-IICBA and GEMR, and World Bank), teachers, private sector players and civil society organizations as well as learning and research institutions.