Global unity vital in pursuit of equal access to education for all – President

President Cyril Ramaphosa has highlighted the urgent need for global unity in ensuring equal access to education for all, particularly amidst ongoing instability .

The President was speaking at the Education International 10th Africa Regional Conference held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Tuesday .

Education International Africa Region is holding its 10th Regional Conference in Johannesburg .

 About 400 delegates, observers, and guests from across and beyond the region are attending the conference .

President Ramaphosa lauded the conference organisers for their commitment to advancing education, particularly in times of crisis, which is crucial for the future of the African continent and the world .

The President told delegates that as nations navigated the turbulent waters brought by the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was confronted with political upheavals and conflicts .

“These crises further strained our social fabric, affecting the livelihoods of countless individuals and denying many children their fundamental right to education .

In these times of instability, it is even more critical for nations to stand united in pursuit of equal access to education for all .

“Education is the cornerstone upon which societies build their future .

Through education, we cultivate respect for human rights, the rule of law and the principles of democracy,” the President said .

President Ramaphosa said the work of the UN High-Level Panel on the Teaching Profession, which demonstrates the adaptation of education systems to a rapidly changing world, is one of the most important tasks of the moment .

The panel draws expertise from diverse stakeholders, including Ministers of Education, labour representatives, teacher unions and civil society organisations, and includes South Africa’s own Minister of Basic Education, Angie Motshekga .

It’s main objectives underscore the importance of educators’ voices in finding solutions to educational challenges .

“Educators play a fundamental and irreplaceable role in shaping our societies, and their insights are invaluable in our quest for sustainable solutions .

Curriculum reform that responds to the changing world of work is another vital task .

“In South Africa, we are on the brink of a significant educational reform with the implementation of the Coding and Robotics curriculum from Grade R to Grade 9 .

“This initiative is part of our broader strategy to integrate STEAM [science, technology, engineering, arts and maths] subjects into our education system .

By doing so, we aim to equip our learners with the digital skills necessary to thrive in a fast-paced world,” President Ramaphosa said .

Decolonising education
The President said that the decolonisation of education has become increasingly important .

He added that the discussions at this conference, focusing on tackling racism, decolonising education and promoting democracy, human rights and trade union rights, could not be more timely .

“The project of decolonising education in Africa is not just a matter of academic interest .

It is a pressing need .

We must challenge colonial theories and practices to build resilient education systems that are centred on African perspectives and experiences .

“This requires a shift away from a Eurocentric worldview to embrace a more diverse and inclusive perspective .

“We must acknowledge and value the knowledge systems of all peoples and integrate them into our curricula and knowledge selection processes,” the President said .

He said the responsibility to nurture and defend the right to education extends to all parts of society .

The President called on labour movements, civil society organisations and non-governmental organisations operating within the educational sphere to collaborate to protect this critical space .

Through such partnerships, he said, the world can prepare learners to be active, informed citizens in democratic societies .

“The role of organisations, such as Education International, are vital .

As advocates for quality education, your mission is to ensure inclusive and equitable learning opportunities for all .

“We know that quality education is not just a matter of access .

What is also needed are safe, conducive environments where the rights of all learners are respected and upheld .

“By improving access to education, we can alleviate poverty and empower marginalised communities, unlocking their potential and contributing to the development of nations,” he said .

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