Education International
Education International

EI Africa Regional Committee tackles impact of the crisis in education

published 13 February 2012 updated 14 February 2012

The EI Africa Regional Committee, held in Accra, Ghana, from 8-11 February, began with a one-day orientation seminar for new Committee members elected in Congo Brazzaville in December 2010. It focused on the negative impact of the economic crisis in Africa, which is undermining quality education in the region.

The Committee consists of two representatives from each of six regional zones, the chair, and vice-chair. EI Executive Board members from Africa are also part of the Committee. EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, and Deputy General Secretary, Charlie Lennon, also attended the meeting.

The EI General Secretary, in a presentation on confronting the crisis, said EI on its own lacks the capacity to confront the crisis through trade union action because it has to work within its affiliates’ scope of action at national level. He outlined the EI World Congress strategy to confront the crisis, which aimed at mitigating the effects of the crisis on education.

This strategy which is designed to defuse a potential social time-bomb, includes investing in schools and educators, delivering high quality educational services, building unity, and preparing for a Global Action Day on 5 October 2013.

This strategy would be advanced by engaging with potential strategic partners like the G8-G20, the Organisation for Economic and Cooperation Development, World Bank, UNESCO, Global Partnership for Education (formerly known as Fast Track Initiative), and the Global Fund for Education.

Kwabena Nyarko Otoo, Director of the Labour Research and Policy Institute from the Ghana Trade Union Congress, explained the origins of the crisis and how it became globalised. He talked about the impact of the crisis on Africa and responses to it.

He concluded that the current neoliberal economic paradigm is incapable of dealing with the needs and challenges of Africa and its people. He added Africa needs ethical and accountable states ensuring equitable distribution of resources, and putting the human factor and employment at the heart of their macroeconomic policy framework.

Professor Pai Obanya also gave a presentation on the potential impact of the global economic crisis on education in Africa.

He deplored the dependency syndrome, rendering Africa vulnerable to whatever happens to developed economies.

Sub-Saharan Africa, he added, is lagging behind in the achievement of Education for All goals because of the quality of its politics, which in turn determine the quality of educational policies, and educational outcomes.

Obanya also gave details of the difficulties which, he believed, were faced by the education sector in Africa and suggested possible courses of action for citizens, unions, and professional educators to mitigate the effects of the crisis on education.

Participants acknowledged the reality and severity of the effects of the crisis, and stated that some countries in the region were living in denial. They participants underlined the necessity of confronting the impact of the crisis as a priority.

Discussions at this orientation seminar also focused on the importance of the development of early childhood education, and the relevant recommendations made by the EI 6th World Congress held in July 2011 in Cape Town, South Africa.