Over twenty years ago, the World Bank launched a comprehensive policy study on education in Sub-Saharan Africa. One of the findings was that to address the crisis in education at that time, there was a need for a new partnership among African countries and international partners to carry on the policy dialogue and encourage donor cooperation. In 1988, an organization was launched with this mission, with support from the World Bank’s Africa Region and grant funding from the World Bank’s Development Grant Facility (DGF). Over the years, this association, now known as the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) has evolved to become an impressive network of African ministries of education and training, development agencies, and education professionals. As of 2008, the Secretariat of ADEA is hosted in the African Development Bank (AfDB), in Tunis.
In the 21st century, African countries will need to continue the impressive gains in access to primary education with more attention to the quality and effectiveness of basic education, the high levels of school dropouts, and invest in new education and training programs. The most recent and highly successful gathering (Triennale) organized by ADEA in February 2012 in Burkina Faso, highlights the need to invest in promoting critical knowledge, skills and qualifications at all levels of education and training systems and for the benefit of all people in African countries, whether they are in school, working or unemployed. The ADEA program, as a forum for policy dialogue, is a model partnership between African education and training ministries and their technical and external partners, one of DGF’s success stories in scaling up an innovative idea, and by far, the most important education network of policy-makers, educators, and researchers in Africa.
ADEA was conceived in 1998 and began implementation with grant support from the World Bank’s Development Grant Facility (DGF). The DGF has provided funding to this initiative for over ten years and it will continue this support until fiscal year (FY) 2015. ADEA is a multi-faceted network, led by Africans and designed as a forum for policy dialogue on education policies in Africa. Its mission is to “act as a catalyst for innovative policies and practices conducive to change in education through the pooling of thinking, experiences, lessons learned and knowledge.”
ADEA plays a crucial role in fostering the policy dialogue, knowledge exchange and consensus-building that are required to promote essential education reforms, as well as to build national ownership and capacity to implement reforms. The role of ADEA has increased in recent years because of the increased international attention to education and enhanced donor coopration resulting from the establishment of the Education for All (EFA) Fast Track Initiative (now the Global Partnership for Education) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
The activities conducted within the ADEA partnership areas facilitate the World Bank’s support for education programs in Africa that are technically sound, financially sustainable, and nationally owned. ADEA has significant “convening power,” strong credibility with African ministers, and it provides a neutral forum for policy dialogue between and among African policy makers and their external and internal partners, such teacher unions, parent associations and nongovernmental organizations.
As a multi-faceted network association, ADEA has produced important results in several different areas, ranging from launching a dialogue, creating a policy forum, or catalyzing action on a particular issue. Some of the most significant results include:
- Continental and regional integration/network meetings. ADEA has organized continent-wide meetings known as Biennales (now Triennales) since 1993, along with many other types of meetings, workshops, seminars, ministerial conferences, and youth fora. These meetings are the apex of the activities and life of ADEA. The main objective of the meetings is to encourage and sustain frank and open discussions between African ministers of education and training, development agencies, and other education professionals.
- Triennale 2012 in Burkina Faso. As part of preparations for this pinnacle event, ADEA carried out extensive consultation to produce a synthesis report on the theme of the meeting, Critical knowledge, skills and qualifications for accelerated and sustainable development in Africa. Approximately 1,000 participants attended, more than any other prior meeting, including more than 60 ministers of education and training from Africa, donors, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs)/civil society organizations, private sector representatives, youth groups and other stakeholders. The Triennale included new actors such as the African diaspora and the private sector. There was also a Korea-Africa Day, to present Korea’s experience and to help develop a new partnership.
- Policy recommendations. The key recommendations of the Triennale were organized around the themes of (i) common core skills for lifelong learning; (ii) lifelong technical and vocational skills development; and (iii) lifelong acquisition of scientific and technological knowledge and skills. ADEA is now working to ensure that the results and recommendations of the Triennale are at the forefront of policy discussions. As a strategic partner of the African Union, ADEA, as a key contributor to the implementation of the African Union Action Plan for the Second Decade of Education, will share these recommendations at the African Union meeting in July 2012.
- Knowledge management. ADEA has developed a Regional Education Management Information System (EMIS) Capacity Development Strategy and an interactive continental statistical database geared to monitor the implementation of the seven areas of focus of the Second Decade of Education. ADEA has developed knowledge management platforms (databases) and its revamped website provides one of the largest sources of information on educational development in Africa
- Policy frameworks for teachers. ADEA has helped many African countries rethink their teacher policies, in particular those countries least likely to meet the EFA goals by 2015. ADEA has developed two policy frameworks that guide countries in developing, implementing, monitoring and evaluating training and upgrading programs, as well as managing careers, opportunities for advancement and providing social protection guarantees, rights and obligations to a new category of teachers (contract teachers) who are being hired to expand the systems.
- Sub-grant. The Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) is a pan-African NGO working in 32 African countries to empower girls and women through gender-responsive education. Over the years, this group evolved from an ADEA working group in 1992 to become one of ADEA’s biggest success stories. FAWE has benefitted from sub-grants from ADEA via the DGF funding to support its innovative research, education models, and policy actions. Schools in which FAWE has undertaken interventions have recorded increased rates of enrollment, retention, and completion for girls.
The World Bank’s Development Grant Facility (DGF) was established in 1997 with the objective to encourage innovation, catalyze partnerships and broaden the Bank’s services by convening and building coalitions and providing financial support to external entities.
ADEA has received a total of US$8.87 million in grant funding from the Bank through the DGF from FY98 through FY12 and the funding is scheduled to end in FY15. The Bank has also provided technical assistance to ADEA during its early years and staff and consultants have been invited to participate in ADEA-sponsored meetings.
ADEA is directed by a Steering Committee composed of ten African ministers of education and representatives of most multilateral and bilateral development organizations that work in the education sector in Africa. The Ministers represent the five regions of Africa (Western Africa, Eastern Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa and Northern Africa). ADEA is funded through the membership fees that development partners pay to be a member of the Steering Committee as well as support from donors.
In addition to the DGF, ADEA has also benefitted from support of more than 20 different bilateral and multilateral sources, including, among many others: the multi-donor Education Program Development Fund (EPDF), the African Development Bank (AfDB), Austria, Canada, the European Union, France, Germany, Ireland, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the African education ministries. In addition, African ministries of education have contributed to ADEA activities in their own countries. During the recent Triennale 2012, the Korean delegation announced its government's decision to join ADEA as a member of its Steering Committee and become a donor to ADEA.
Toward the Future
The DGF support to ADEA is scheduled up to FY15. Yet, given ADEA’s convening power, the Bank will continue to remain engaged with the ADEA network. Through this network, the Bank now has access to an important regional platform on education. For example, at the 2012 Triennale, taking advantage of the presence of education and training ministers, the Bank presented its revised Education Strategy.
The next three years will begin a period of transition for ADEA to become self-sustaining, reach out to new continental and regional partnerships and multi and bilateral donors, and continue to excel in analytical and policy initiatives. As the association takes on new and greater roles, emphasis will need to be placed on strengthening the capacity of the Secretariat to disseminate information, improve monitoring and evaluation of programs, and translate the recommendations from meetings and discussions into concrete policy actions or programs. In 2012, ADEA has assembled a group of consultants and select Steering Committee members to prepare a Vision Paper for the organization to provide guidance on its mission and operations in the years ahead.
The Kenyan Minister of Education Sam Ongeri, who is also Chair of the ADEA Bureau of Ministers, called on each minister to communicate the results of the Triennale to the Council of Ministers of his/her country, so that the government could take them on board. In this way, he added, “even if we are no longer in the government tomorrow, we are sure that the outcomes of the Triennale will be given close attention and followed up.” Mr. Ongeri also emphasized the vital role of the Regional Economic Communities and invited them to become active supporters of the acquisition of critical knowledge, skills and qualifications in order to support the program of sustainable development in Africa. “Today is the time for Africa to rise and shine. As Ministers of Education, Science and Technology, we have a duty to lead this process so that this dream comes true,” he added.