African Union launches ambitious “Year of Education” initiative for 2024

UNESCO pledges support for Universal Primary and Secondary Education


February 23, 2024

/ By / Paris

African Union launches ambitious “Year of Education” initiative for 2024

UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay met with UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador A’Salfo in Abidjan

UNESCO has welcomed the move by the African Union to declare the year 2024 as the “Year of Education,” with ambitious goals that were announced at the recent Summit of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa.

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United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has welcomed the declaration by African Union countries to celebrate 2024 as ‘Year of Education’ and has pledged support for African States in achieving universal primary and secondary education.

In a press statement, UNESCO says that substantial advancements have been achieved in enhancing educational accessibility throughout Africa in recent decades. Notably, the out-of-school population in Sub-Saharan Africa, at primary and secondary levels, witnessed a decline from 44 pc in 2000 to 29 pc in 2020, as delineated in the latest UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report 2023.

Currently, the youth literacy rate in sub-Saharan Africa experienced an ascent from 66 pc to 77 pc, while the adult literacy rate rose from 52.6 pc to 64.3 pc during the same period.

The statement  adds that the commitment of African countries to enhancing access to quality education is further underscored by a recently released UNESCO scorecard. This comprehensive assessment reveals that African States are resolute in reducing primary out-of-school rates from 19 pc in 2022 to a targeted 11 pc by 2025.

Additionally, there is a collective commitment to ensuring that 79 pc of pre-primary level teachers and 85 pc of primary level teachers receive training, addressing the prevalent shortage of qualified educators across the continent, says UNESCO.

The statement adds that Africa is home to the world’s largest out-of-school population, with 98 million school-aged individuals not enrolled. Additionally, an alarming statistic reveals that nearly 9 in 10 children attending school struggle to read and comprehend a simple text by age 10. This underscores the profound significance of the African Union’s decision to dedicate 2024 to education.

UNESCO adds that throughout this pivotal year, along with support by UNESCO, AU countries will make concerted efforts to address two major challenges, namely the funding gap and the shortage of qualified teachers, with its valuable support of UNESCO.

“This decision of the African Union sends a very strong signal to invest in education as a driver of sustainable development of the continent and to consider the needs of young generations. UNESCO, as the UN lead organisation for education, is determined to support the efforts of African States to achieve universal primary and secondary education and access to quality higher education and research opportunities in Africa,” says Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO.

According to UNESCO, an additional USD 77 billion annually is imperative for African countries to attain their national education targets and deliver quality education for all. Despite this pressing need, development aid to education in sub-Saharan Africa witnessed a concerning decline of 23 pc in the last recorded year. Compounding the issue, there is a demand for an increased number of qualified teachers, with 15 million required to be recruited by 2030 to achieve universal primary and secondary education in Africa.

UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador A’Salfo and his internationally renowned Ivorian band, Magic System, have unveiled a revised rendition of the band’s popular track Magic in the Air. This release coincides with the initiation of Education as the African Union’s theme for the year 2024. UNESCO says that titled ‘Education in the Air,’ the song has been reworked to champion education as a pivotal catalyst for shaping brighter futures for individuals and societies at large.

“Working through the Magic System Foundation and as UNESCO’s Goodwill Ambassador, I strongly believe in the power of education to transform lives and to create a just and peaceful world. Now is the time for all of us to work together to ensure that all learners thrive and pursue their dreams. With the “Education in the Air” global campaign, I invite everyone to dance for education and use the #DanceForEducation,” says A’Salfo, UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador.

The finest dance clips will feature in a music video set to launch in May, commemorating Africa Day. In recent weeks, the UNESCO Director-General journeyed to Abidjan, engaging with President of Côte d’Ivoire Alassane Ouattara, discussing UNESCO’s commitment to a USD 45 million educational support program in the country.

During this visit, the Director-General also expressed gratitude to A’Salfo and the entire Ivorian band Magic System at their Foundation for creating an anthem poised to heighten awareness about educational issues among citizens.



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