A massive two-day sub-Saharan Africa conference on education got under way in Johannesburg this morning where more than 5000 educationists are set to deliberate on current trends facing education.
This year’s Edu Week Conference is set to attract educationists from as far as Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, South Sudan, Namibia, Rwanda and other countries in the region.
The conference, which was organised by an event management company in sub-Sahara Africa Spintelligent, in partnership with department of basic education and other partners in private sector, officially kicked off at the Gallagher Convention Centre, Johannesburg.
Officially opening the conference this morning, South Sudan general education and instruction minister Deng Yai said Africa needs to offer free education for all.
His statement comes at a time when President Jacob Zuma in the coming months is scheduled to receive a report from the Fees Commission, chaired by retired judge Jonathan Arthur Heher and tasked to investigate the feasibility of free higher education.
Last year, Zuma appointed the commission following violent protests by students, who demanded free education from the state in 2015.
Yai said Africa needed to change the business of education to respond to the needs of the labour market in the 21st century and to the fourth industrial revolution.
“Basic education is no longer enough. There is a need for higher education ... Education must be free for every individual from Early Childhood Development to universities. From cradle to grave.”
He said special focus was required to be placed in Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges to change the lives of the youth.
However, he said quality programmes were required to be offered at TVETs.
He said Africa needed to embrace and change the curriculum of education to produce a workforce capable enough to participate in the fourth industrial revolution.
Increase in access to education and using technology in schools was required, he said.
“We need to invest in education. We will be investing in young people in African to have a better future. If you think the cost of education is too much look at the cost of ignorance,” he said.
Yai said millions of youth were still unable to access education in Africa.
In South Sudan alone, Yai said, there were 1.8 million young people out of school.
“We need to give young people that one chance to go to school and learn,” he said.
Yai said Africa had a potential to be prosperous and rise above its challenges.
“Africa must invest in youth because of the future of Africa. We cannot be a prosperous African without empowering youth,” Yai said.
Tanya Jackman, event director of EduWeek, said it was about advancing education in Africa.
“EduWeek offers our visitors a real opportunity to be at the forefront of Africa’s transformation by networking with leaders, strategic thinkers and entrepreneurs from Africa and across the globe.
"We are hugely excited about EduWeek 2017, its growth and all of its exciting new features.
“We truly believe that this will be the best EduWeek event yet and look forward to welcoming the education community to join us and to learn and grow with us”.
The theme of this year’s event is Education: Africa’s path to a sustainable future and highlighting the challenges that education in a 21st century Africa is facing and looking at meaningful solutions.