The Day of the African Child plays a special role in our work because it commemorates youth strength and bravery in the fight for quality education. The courageous stand that Hector Pieterson and his 10,000 peers took against prevailing injustices perpetrated by the apartheid South African government remind us all that youth are powerful drivers of change.
This day was established in 1991 by the Organization of African Unity to commemorate the student uprising on June 16, 1976 in Soweto, South Africa. Thirteen year old Hector and his peers marched in a column more than half a mile long to protest the Bantu Education system and the introduction of Afrikaans as the medium of instruction. The protest ignited international outcry and support for South African children to access quality education. We now celebrate the Day of the African Child to honor the children who lost their lives on that day and reflect upon the ongoing challenges children in Africa face in obtaining quality education.
Dedicating a particular day to this issue provides a unique opportunity to highlight work that addresses obstacles African children face daily in attaining quality education. This year, the African Union selected the theme “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development.” The theme represents a turning point in education policy targeting access to quality education on the continent. Despite the fact that more students are going to school, researchers and policymakers have become concerned with the disparities in achievement. Across the continent wide disparities exist between boys and girls, urban and rural communities, and the rich and poor. Instruments such as the African Learning Barometer illustrate the urgent need to accelerate education progress and improve equity in learning outcomes.
Following the continental trend, Botswana has made tremendous progress in education with primary school enrollment standing at over 90%. According to the World Bank, the government’s drive to achieve universal basic education has resulted in between 96-100% of students continuing on to secondary education, yet Botswana lags behind similar income countries in student learning outcomes. According to UNESCO, only 56% and 61% of students achieved the minimum standard of proficiency in reading and math, respectively, in 2011.
Young 1ove, in partnership with the Ministry of Basic Education and UNICEF, is piloting Teaching at the Right Level in an effort to leave no child behind in Botswana. The program’s approach calls for evaluating student proficiency and grouping students according to their learning level instead of age or grade. After re-grouping, youth facilitators use fun, targeted activities in a supplementary class session to teach students at their level. Teaching students at their ability level rather than grade level curriculum has proven successful in improving basic literacy and numeracy. The program, created by Pratham in partnership with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab, is now being implemented in other African countries including Kenya, Zambia and Ghana.
We are proud to not only be a part of this international movement, but to be an organisation in which youth are empowering youth to achieve quality education. Each year the Day of the African Child reminds us that it is our responsibility to advance Hector’s legacy until each and every child is thriving in a safe and engaging learning environment.
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