Addressing the learning crisis through system strengthening
The learning crisis in Southern Africa is worsening and this places a critical mass of the region’s population at risk to critical multi-layered and interconnected vulnerabilities threatening a future humanitarian crisis of massive proportions. Inequitable learning outcomes rooted in learning poverty are the most compelling drivers of these vulnerabilities among rural youth, yet the economic and social dividends of redressing these inequalities could transform the face of the sub-Saharan region.
Learning poverty is rooted in ineffective educational systems occupied by under resourced and under informed system actors. In response to the challenges of learning poverty, diverse groups of CSOs have stepped up to respond to specific learning problems that directly affect rural youth populations including by addressing these in localised settings.
However, the size of these organisations and their disparate grouping has resulted in fragmented and disconnected efforts that could be enhanced to yield greater national benefits with capacity building. The project aims to strengthen these CSOs and related stakeholders in the education system to participate in regional or transnational spaces.
Transnational spaces represent key multi-network platforms for CSOs working in rural education interventions to lobby for policy reform, build pressure for national accountability, exchange information for transnational learning and adapting. These spaces are key due to regional trade and education curriculum blocs which will place a demand for greater transnational alignment of learning outcomes. Moreover COVID-19 has disrupted global supply chains demanding that regions and countries reroute supplies of goods and even skills closer to home.
Currently, the African Union (AU) is the largest transnational space on the continent with the greatest influence in convening and gathering countries. The AU has articulated a ten year Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA).
The alliance has been able to engage them in year zero interviews which have highlighted opportunities for engagement, collaboration and learning that can create a launchpad for the project’s capacity building and advocacy engagement with CSOs working with rural youth populations.
Key challenges to be addressed through such engagements will assist rural youth populations in identifying and articulating their needs, gathering relevant data to inform advocacy within transnational spaces and their decision-making processes, and effectively disseminating learning outcomes at grassroots level while mitigating against COVID-19 related restrictions.
By the end of the project, the alliance aims to have helped rural youth in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe strengthen their advocacy efforts to better engage with those who make decisions that affect their experience of the education system.