UNICEF calls for investments in education for African children to spur growth

  • World
  • Friday, 14 Jun 2024

NAIROBI, June 13 (Xinhua) -- Massive investments in basic education for African children are required to help the continent realize its long-term transformation agenda, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) said Thursday ahead of the Day of the African Child that will be marked Sunday.

Education financing on the continent remains dismal, UNICEF said, adding that less than one in five countries have dedicated 20 percent of their public budgets to enhancing foundational skills for their children.

"To ensure prosperity in Africa we urgently need to see a continental revolution where commitments are turned into concrete action so children can attain the foundational skills necessary for them to progress to higher forms of education and realize their full potential," Etleza Kadili, UNICEF regional director for Eastern and Southern Africa, said in a statement issued in Nairobi, the Kenyan capital.

The theme of the 2024 Day of the African Child, which is observed annually on June 16 will be "Education for all children in Africa: the time is now," underscoring the urgency to realize universal childhood literacy in the continent.

UNICEF said despite its role in building human capital to propel Africa's growth, education financing in the continent has slackened, preventing millions of children from acquiring the basic literacy and skills that they require to thrive.

Despite significant efforts by African governments over the last decade to boost primary and secondary school enrollment, schools continue to lack basic amenities, are overcrowded, and have insufficient teachers, according to UNICEF. The UN agency noted that four out of every five African children aged 10 years are unable to read and understand a simple written text, highlighting the dismal learning outcomes on the continent.

UNICEF estimates that about 183 billion U.S. dollars are required annually to support children's education in Africa and achieve the Sustainable Development Goal on education. However, available resources currently stand at 106 billion U.S. dollars, leaving a financing gap of over 40 percent.

The agency further noted that African governments spend around 2 percent of their education budgets on pre-primary education, while 20 percent is allocated to tertiary learning.

Gilles Fagninou, UNICEF's regional director for West and Central Africa, emphasized the urgency of the situation, saying that more than 100 million primary and secondary-school-age children in Africa are out of school. This underscores the need to ramp up investments in new learning facilities that are adequately staffed and equipped.

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