Chido Mpemba putting a spotlight on foundational learning across Africa

By Chido Cleopatra Mpemba, African Union Commission Youth Envoy

An education is a precious thing! Born and bred in Zimbabwe I was lucky enough to have been given strong foundations in and through education, which have enabled me through hard work and determination to pursue my goals.  I would not be here today fronting the voices of youth from over 55 countries as the youngest diplomat in the African Union without my parents, teachers, school principles and friends who believed in me and supported me on my learning journey.

We cannot forget every African child has the right to an education. And over the past two decades, Africa has improved children’s access to education thanks to commitment and action by the continent’s leadership.

While progress has been promising, challenges remain. The UNESCO and ADEA Spotlight Report published in partnership with the African Union reminds us children in Africa are five time less likely to learn the basics and only two in three children in the region complete primary school by age 15. Insufficient funding leading to a lack of equipment, dilapidated buildings, overcrowded classrooms, poor teacher development and teacher payment are holding children back from learning.

The massive disparities in African education systems require urgent action. With the largest population of young people of any continent, education must be the driving force for the continent to fully harness its talent and deliver the future we want.

Since becoming the AU Youth Envoy in 2021 I’ve witnessed young people across our continent striving for peace, justice, inclusion, gender equality and human rights. Part of my role is ensuring young people have a place at table as agents for change and working together to shape the Africa we want. In May, we achieved a milestone with the institutionalization of the Office of the Youth Envoy which is a great leap towards the attainment of the aspirations of African youth. But we need an educated and literate young people to achieve our vision.

It comes as no surprise then that the importance of education as the bedrock of development and sustainability for our collective future was recognized by the recent declaration by His Excellency AU Commissioner Belhocine that the AU theme for 2024 will be education.

Together we must grab this opportunity as a catalyst for action. We already have a continental youth movement actively engaging to follow up on commitments made in the Transforming Education Summit’s and encapsulated in the Youth Manifesto.

In the lead up to 2024 we need to harness this momentum and ensure we have a voice in transforming our own education systems. I intend to use my voice, strengths and influence to advocate for the inclusion and empowerment of young people in communities across Africa.

Governments across the continent must tackle the learning crisis through increased investment in foundational learning. We need to give children the basics they need to build off and the opportunities for them to continue to learn.

Africa’s youth can make a difference if we make our voices heard and demand the same learning opportunities possible for every child, everywhere. Let’s build momentum in the run up to the 2024 AU Year of Education and spotlight the importance of foundational learning for all #BorntoLearn.

On June 16 to mark Day of the African Child 2023, Chido joined education champions from across Africa. including Ghana’s Minister for Education Hon. Yaw Osei Adutwum and Congolese Model and Philanthropist Noëlla Coursaris Musunka for youth-led Twitter Event. Listen to the event recording and visit the campaign page here.   

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