Former Education Minister, Dr Matthew Opoku Prempeh

Minister of Education Matthew Opoku Prempeh has articulated the need to imbibe digital skills into students if education is to see a boost among the youth across Africa.

According to him, the quest to improve the essential life skills of students is critical. He believes that securing the future of the youth and preparing them for the job market with IT skills is crucial, especially in these times of Covid-19.

He made these comments during the Mastercard Foundation’s release of a new report, Secondary Education in Africa: Preparing Youth for the Future of Work on August 13.

Report findings indicate that changes in the nature of jobs place a premium on skills that require young people to be adaptable, resilient, and creative problem solvers.

Secondary education that provides relevant skills to young workers will help improve productivity, particularly in the informal sector, and will play an important role in driving long-term economic growth and reducing poverty in Africa.

Mr Opoku Prempeh indicated that even though the push for a national digitization policy could have started much earlier in Ghana, there is still enough time to boost that aspect of the average Ghanaian student.

“Even though we had started all the elementary elements, all of a sudden it seemed as if we had not even planned for it. We cannot be part of the 21st century world without embedding digital literacy as part of our education and life,” the Education Minister explained.

He was of the view that the novel coronavirus had highlighted the need to acquire new skills in the evolving age of technology and the impact of the virus on jobs had provided the opportunity to rethink the modalities of conventional teaching and learning structures.

This means the infrastructure for the technologies to be provided and deployed.

It also calls for the training and re-training of teachers to reflect the skill set necessary for its execution in the classrooms.

“We have to let our teachers be comfortable with ICT so that they teach the kids and be comfortable. We have a situation right now where the kids are more comfortable with the ICT tools than the teacher,” he clarified.

Former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf speaking at the Secondary Education in Africa Virtual Summit

Using the 2014 Ebola crisis as a backdrop, former President of Liberia Ellen Johnson Sirleaf said that experience provided the institutional memory to support the push for Africa to uphold education as part of the Covid-19 recovery plan.

Meanwhile, President and CEO of the Mastercard Foundation, Reeta Roy while speaking at the Summit believes that strategic investment into secondary education is critical to empower the youth to surmount challenges posed during this pandemic.

Co-founder of Butterfly Effect, Primerose Adjepong also called on stakeholders to expand the remits of secondary education beyond the physical confines of a classroom block.

“You don’t need to be in a classroom to get educated. You could be a farmer’s kid and you could learn a lot of 21st century skills, technical skills on that farm.

She added: “We need to have that reality in mind. And how do we ensure that if the buck stops here? These students are leaving [the] university ready to work and self actualize.”

The report encourages policymakers, educators, philanthropists, and young people themselves to re-envision secondary education for the future and to consider actionable recommendations for getting there.

Access the full report, Secondary Education in Africa: Preparing Youth for the Future of Work here.