Secondary Education in Africa: Remarks by Reeta Roy at the Report Release

13th August 2020 

Your Excellency President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf,
Honourable Ministers,
Members of the media,
Distinguished Guests,

It is my pleasure to officially welcome you to the release of the Secondary Education in Africa Report.

This report has been a few years in the making. Thank you for joining us and for your commitment to making high-quality, relevant, universally-accessible secondary education in Africa a reality.

As with any undertaking of this nature and magnitude, we could not have developed this report, or its recommendations, alone.

So let me thank the many individuals and institutions who contributed their insights, experiences and research to this report. It is impossible to name them all. I wish I could. I’d just like to single out the Ministries of Education in Senegal and Rwanda who played a key role—and I’m thrilled that we will be hearing from His Excellency President Kagame momentarily. Everyone, thank you for your contributions!

But this blueprint for Secondary Education is only as good as the action it inspires.

And today, we have a unique opportunity to act.

We know secondary Education is often the last formal schooling young people receive before entering the world of work.

We know secondary education can improve the fortunes of young people and drive inclusive economic growth across Africa.

The issues this report addresses are more relevant than ever. Relevant to our present—and to Africa’s future.

Digitization, automation, and technological advancements were already changing the trajectory of work across the continent—and poised to affect the economic prospects of millions of young people.  This is even truer in the wake of a crisis that is creating a more “contactless” world.

How do we ensure our economies and societies, emerge from the other side of these developments, stronger and more inclusive.

Secondary Education can be a big part of the answer.

Ensuring secondary education sets up young people for success is not only important for them, it is critical for the economies they represent, which rely heavily on harnessing the potential of the informal sector.

We will hear more about what it takes to align Secondary education with the current and future needs of African economies. Let me highlight three things:

First, it’ll take inclusion. Inclusion in terms of making Secondary Education more accessible. This means addressing affordability for families. Providing flexible options for out-of-school or working youth. That means ensuring young mothers don’t have to choose between personal responsibilities and school. That means delivering high quality learning to rural and refugee learners. Education that accommodates the diverse life circumstances of learners and helps them pursue their full potential.  That’s inclusion.

Second, it requires a teacher workforce, equipped to facilitate learning. The data shows that Africa will need over 10 million additional secondary school teachers by 2030 to meet demand for secondary education on the continent. So attracting passionate young people into this profession and equipping them with the skills to train a 21st century workforce is imperative.

Third, a focus on digital skills.  Even amid disruption, digital skills serve as a passport to participate in the economy.  And, as multiple industries across Africa from agriculture to health to creative industries accelerate digitization of value chains,  digital skills are crucial for young people to compete for jobs or create their own jobs.

At the Mastercard Foundation we have invested $357 million in secondary education since 2006 to

  • Improve curriculum and empower teachers
  • Improve access to secondary education for over 26,000 young people
  • And promote digital literacy among young people

You can expect the Foundation to continue on this course over the next decade, inspired by what we have learned in the course of our work and partnership.

What have we learned?

We’ve learned is that change is possible. That small adjustments can make a big difference. That innovation doesn’t need to be expensive. That collaboration is crucial for impact in education.

Those lessons have also informed the recommendations of this report, which is designed to support an ecosystem of changemakers—and what we can do. Together.

And we can do it. Even now. I truly believe that. I know you do too. And I look forward to us coming together to act on that conviction.

Thank you.

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