The promotion of access to quality education, training as well as the harmonisation of educational systems are very central to the renewed drive by the Commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to improve the region’s educational sector.
The President of the ECOWAS Commission Jean-Claude Kassi Brou made this known at the opening of a Three-Day West African Education Conference on the 9th of October 2018, in Abuja, Nigeria.
President Brou told the gathering at the ECOWAS Commission headquarters that the core mandate of the Commission and indeed ECOWAS is to “embark on policies, programmes, projects and activities that enhance the social emancipation, poverty eradication and economic development through cooperation, integration and a common identity”.
He said it was for this reason that the ECOWAS education and training sector was established in 2003 with the objectives of providing all community citizens with greater access to quality education and training while harmonising the different components of educational training systems in the Member States.
He maintained that it was in order to provide the legal basis for interventions at different levels and spheres of education and facilitate the mobility of students, lecturers and labour across the region, that the Authority of Heads of State adopted the ECOWAS Protocol on Education and training and the convention on the recognition and equivalence of certificates.
The theme of the Conference is “Education for global relevance, regional integration and competitiveness”. Noting the theme’s aptness, President Brou said it is comparable to the educational priorities of the Commission and should be supported by all stakeholders including ECOWAS.
He stressed that the Commission has over the years embarked on policy dialogue, sensitisation, advocacy and scholarships for the education of girls and inclusion of other vulnerable groups adding that he was looking forward to further collaboration on the outcome of the conference.
With the aid of statistics, the president also noted that proper education is critical for the advancement of the West African region which has nearly 370 million (and over 60 percent being youth between 15 to 35 years)
ECOWAS, he assured, places high premium on education systems whose products are employable by modern industries and settings and can contribute to their respective Member States and the region in general.
In a keynote address, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, United Nations Office For West Africa And The Sahel (UNOWAS) Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, stated instructively that the content of education, (both formal and informal) and the values it inculcates equally determine the resilience of individuals and societies and their ability to adapt to evolving circumstances as well as the vagaries of national and international adversity. Education determines the collective and individual shock absorbing capacities.
Going forward, he submitted among others that “effective collaboration will require a West African revision of regional educational vision and priorities to uplift the quality of life of its people and overcome various obstacles to development and varied threats to national and regional peace and stability”.
In her remarks, the President of the Nigerian Academy of Education Professor Elizabeth Eke noted that the similar educational problems which abound throughout West Africa “are so endemic that they do not make news anymore”
She noted that education is key to development and that West Africa operates four educational systems- British, French, American and Portuguese, she lamented that the region still bears the highest out-of-school numbers of children globally, a situation which is being made worse by insurgency and terrorism.
Giving a goodwill message, the executive Director of Africa Federation of Teaching Regulatory Authorities (AFTRA) Professor Steve Nwokeocha said the continental regulatory body is looking forward to a successful conference that will yield “new insights for the professionalization of teaching standards by all countries and promotion of teacher mobility for better education systems of member nations”
Declaring the conference open, the Nigerian Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu stressed that West Africa needs education and training system that are more flexible than is currently the case.
Represented by professor Olusegun Ajiboye, the minister said the West African region urgently needs to key into the world of new technologies such as artificial intelligence, biotech even as education has to be developed for regional integration, political stability, cultural resilience as well as shared natural resources and labour mobility.