Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently took part in a Mastercard Foundation virtual summit marking the release of their new report, ‘Secondary Education in Africa: Preparing Youth for the Future of Work.’ Bringing together African leaders, policymakers, and secondary education experts, the virtual discussion featured remarks from the President of the Republic of Rwanda Paul Kagame and Mastercard Foundation President and CEO Reeta Roy, amongst others.
In her keynote address, titled ‘The importance of secondary education in economic and social development in Africa,’ Madam Sirleaf shared her commitment to the principle of inclusion and the importance of quality education in achieving a more equitable society:
“I am deeply invested in the question of how to improve education. One of the Mastercard Foundation’s key principles is advancing inclusion – a priority that I share and which motivated me to join the Board. There is no greater driver of inclusion than a quality education, and there is nothing that can more quickly devastate hopes for the future than to have it taken away.”
Madam Sirleaf recognized the significant impact of COVID-19 on global school systems, highlighting that while necessary, prolonged school closures have negatively impacted access, quality, and investment in education – particularly in Africa. She also urged immediate action to ensure that the education and future prospects of Africa’s youth are not permanently damaged.
Exploring the challenges that lie ahead, Madam Sirleaf emphasized the imperative to transform education provision across Africa and equip young people with the skills needed for the future of work:
“We are failing an entire generation, and we need to look honestly at our current educational systems and understand why children don’t have the basic skills when they leave school. We need a paradigm shift – and this crisis may provide the inspiration and impetus we need to make a change.”
The one-day virtual summit also featured panel discussions examining education in the post-pandemic context and explored how policy can sustain educational change across the continent. Learn more about the summit and find the full list of speakers here.