Remark by Ms Prudence Ngwenya on behalf of AU Commission for Human Resource Science and Technology, at the opening session of NEPAD Regional Conference on Arts Education in Africa
The African Union recognizes the value of multiple forms of education, including formal, non-formal, informal, distance learning and life-long learning, to meet the diverse needs of young people, including arts education. The African Youth Charter calls for AU member states to embrace these multiple forms of education. The AUC is cognizant of the fact that Arts Education enables students to become creative, self-aware critical thinkers, and innovative. Through arts, students learn to develop the necessary imaginative, intellectual, theoretical and practical skills to equip them for continuing personal development and professionalism. Art informs and provides visual, tactile and more practical learning environments and dispositions.
Although Africa’s education must be anchored in a science, technology and innovation basis; it is clear that it is Arts disciplines that help to establish the interface between science and technology on one hand; and innovation, entrepreneurship and prosperity on the other hand. Without the nexus of social sciences and arts subjects, Science and technology cannot engender development in any shape or form. Furthermore an understanding of Science and Technology requires that students are taught in a language that they can easily understand, and that enable optimal articulation and conceptualization. Indeed it has been shown that performance in many African countries in technical subjects is low because these subjects introduce new concepts in foreign languages, which complicates the processes of cognitive engagement for the young students.
For this reason, the plan of action for the second decade of education for Africa recognizes the value of arts education, including the re-establishment of the linkage between African culture and education; strengthening of the use and teaching of African languages; increasing the African content of curricula and including teaching of African history and knowledge systems in order to promote African values. These are embodied in a wholesome Arts Education.
The rich language heritage of Africa must be strengthened if Africa is to reclaim its place as a peer in the global arena and contributor to global knowledge.
In further demonstration of the AU’s appreciation of the value of arts education, the Pan African University includes the thematic of Governance, Humanities and Social Sciences as one of the five thematic institutes. Furthermore, the PAU brand of curricula demands that every PAU graduate will take courses in the areas of African history, gender and human rights, peace and conflict resolution, innovation and creativity; as well as ensuring that every PAU student graduates with a working knowledge of at least French and English languages.
Arts education is acknowledged as a universal human right for all learners including those often excluded from main stream education. Furthermore, research has indicated beyond a shadow of doubt that education in and through the arts stimulates cognitive development, increases respect and appreciation for cultural diversity, cultivates in each individual a sense of creativity, initiative, fertile imagination, a capacity for critical reflection and the potential to play a role in wider social cohesion.
The AUC supports the notion that employing multiple forms of education has the potential of unlocking Africa’s potential as an increasing force in global economic, political and cultural affairs. The convergence of the Common Africa Position, Agenda 2063, Education Strategy for Africa and the international focus on the cultural dimension of development provide a unique opportunity for Africans to devise and implement appropriate policies, strategies and concrete actions to respond to the needs and opportunities of the 21st Century.
In the ongoing process of the development of the Africa Education Strategy 2016-2025, the African Union will use the opportunity to reiterate the value of the teaching and learning of Arts subjects in a mutli-disciplinary approach to education provision, in order to educate the whole person and fit education graduates optimal contribution to Africa’s social and economic development.