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Embracing the African Union’s Year of Education

Blog by Ponke Danker, Coordinator of the Irish Forum for Global Education

As May begins, preparations are underway for Africa and the world to celebrate Africa Day on 25th May. The 25th May marks the foundation of the African Union (AU and then Organisation of African Unity) in 1963. The day embraces the AUs vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”

This year, in 2024, Africa Day holds particular significance within the context of global education: Earlier this year, the AU declared 2024 the “Year of Education”. Theme of the year is “Educate and Skill Africa for the 21st Century”. Building on the Transformative Education Summit of 2022, the AU’s Heads of States are committed to addressing the global education crisis and making progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4): to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” It is the first time that the AU considered and chose education as their theme and signaling a strong message towards achieving SDG4. (1)

The timing couldn’t be more opportune, given the urgent need to tackle key educational challenges across many African countries. 

While over the past years, African countries undertook substantial efforts and measures to offering access to education to all learners and significant progress was made, the AU in its preparation for announcing the “Year of Education” identifies four main indicators that “ring a warning bell”

  1. An estimated 98 million children are out of school in Africa, according to UNESCO data from 2022.
  2. The Learning Poverty rate  stands at 86-90%, indicating the number of children unable to read and understand a simple text by age 10. 
  3. Africa faces a projected shortage of 17 million teachers by 2030.
  4. It is estimated that Africa will require more than 90% of global external financing for education by 2030. (2)

These figures present a significant global challenge for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education for all worldwide. The AUs’s renewed commitment to mobilising joint action for education in Africa offers hope and sets an example for putting education at the heart of government efforts to achieving the 2030 Agenda. 

As we approach Africa Day on May 25th, stay tuned for more information on unleashing the potential of the African Year of Education and its impact on SDG4 globally!


(1) See Concept Note on Education as the AU Theme of the Year for 2024, EX.CL/1476(XLIV)Rev.1, Ch. 1 Para. 1, 43425-doc-EX_CL_1476_XLIV_Rev._1_-_CONCEPT_NOTE_with_Roadmap_AU_Theme_E.pdf) 

(2) See Concept Note on Education as the AU Theme of the Year for 2024, EX.CL/1476(XLIV)Rev.1, Ch. 2, 43425-doc-EX_CL_1476_XLIV_Rev._1_-_CONCEPT_NOTE_with_Roadmap_AU_Theme_E.pdf)