Although Covid has plunged the education system around the world into crisis, experts say Africa’s tragic education system, characterized by crumbling infrastructure, overpopulation and poor outcomes, is impacting higher education.
Wits School of Education professor Brahm Fleisch said the crisis is a common problem in developing countries across the continent. He said it was critical to get the basics right and that good quality primary education was one of the non-negotiables, as higher or tertiary education needed solid primary and secondary education to build on.
“There are certainly several innovations that need to take place, and not just in SA, but across the continent.
“For example, we have research evidence that gives us a compelling picture of what needs to be done to improve early reading,” he said.
Professor Wayne Hugo from the University of KwaZulu-Natal said the biggest problem was literacy and that students in SA still struggled with reading. Covid would have made this even worse.
“There are terrible stories in the technical vocational education and training system where students can’t read and can’t do basic math,” he added. “In the young age classes that are currently in our country, the number of children who are learning to read well, because of Covid and disruptions, has fallen and that is a big problem.”
Save the Children’s Yani Horn told before The The Vanir-exodus that in 2016, at least 78% of grade 4 children could not read in any language for meaning in SA. She said the situation has now deteriorated as additional factors have come into play.
“Children experience up to a year of learning loss due to school disruptions caused by the pandemic,” she added.
“Additional aggravating factors include civil unrest, damage to schools and destruction of libraries, as we have seen in KwaZulu-Natal.
“The implication is that our children have fewer opportunities to increase their literacy.”
This was after the University of SA hosted the University of the Future Network (UFN), in partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in constructing global visions and pathways for higher education. by 2050.
Director of the Future of Learning and Innovation team at UNESCO, Sobhi Tawil, said it was fitting that the conference was hosted by a South African higher education institution, as SA students have been at the forefront of rethinking higher education and campaigning for real access and inclusion, equality and change.
Tawil said UNESCO has launched the Futures of Education initiative to rethink how knowledge and learning can help shape the future of humanity, the planet and desirable possible alternative futures. Tawil added that in the face of profound social, political, economic, environmental and technological changes, there is a growing consensus that current education systems are no longer fit for purpose.
“This calls for new social contracts for education that can rectify injustices of the past, help us deliver on the unfulfilled promises and commitments we’ve made to education rights for all while transforming the future. .”
He said that education, as the foundation for inclusive societies, has shaped the minds of people around the world as they fulfill their aspirations. “It is a key to solving many of the global and local challenges we face. We cannot heal a damaged planet, reduce huge inequalities, secure women’s and girls’ rights, strengthen trust or build peace without a strong commitment to education,” he added.
Meanwhile, Unisa Director and Vice Chancellor Professor Puleng LenkaBula said it was a perfect match as Unisa has always been at the forefront of shaping the future. “To protect knowledge systems, we must ensure that the intellectual future of South Africa, the continent and the world is protected with the realization that we exist not only as individuals, but also as individuals inseparable from society “, she said. said.
“Universities in the past were considered elite environments, where only those with the financial resources could develop themselves.”
LenkaBula urged universities to take seriously the need for health and wellness in the wake of Covid which has made everyone aware of humanity’s vulnerability.
Universität Oberta de Catalunya in Spain and UFN professor Josep Duart said that higher education institutions had a huge challenge in examining what was happening now and how it was affecting higher education institutions.
“The transformation that universities are currently going through has a direct impact on the educational process,” he says.
The conference participants provided a new perspective on the future of higher education by addressing future research methodologies and policies needed for transformations in higher education in the decades to come.
The conclusions of the conference will be presented at the Third World Higher Education Conference from May 18-20 in Barcelona, Spain.