Quantcast

'Africa Rising'? Not really, unless we invest more in girls

By Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, President of Liberia Special to CNN | 6/16/2014, 10:28 a.m.
hat factor has the power to transform individual lives, communities, nations and the world?
Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, President of Liberia, briefs correspondents on the latest developments in her country, following her address to the 61st session of the General Assembly at United Nations Headquarters in New York. (Erin Siegal/UN Photo)

It is however, not good enough to only increase the number of children receiving education. Children and young people must learn basic knowledge, skills and competencies, such as reading, writing, critical thinking, problem solving and math, that are needed to live healthy, safe and productive lives.

In Liberia, across the African continent and, indeed, around the world, it is becoming increasingly apparent that going to school is not the same as learning. This is of grave concern given that many of the social and economic returns from an education are found to come from learning outcomes rather than number of years in school.

To accomplish this, more financial resources that are better spent are needed to build a strong education system capable of improving both access and learning for all. But making informed decisions about those resources requires good data.

Information on teachers, how to best support them to do their jobs, and information on how students are learning are crucial for knowing what policies and programs will be effective. By using our resources more effectively and focusing them on those children that are currently left behind, we can have some of the best educated citizens in the world -- citizens who will be responsible for building a peaceful and prosperous future.

At current rates, the poorest girls in sub-Saharan Africa will only achieve universal primary completion in 2086. To not invest in and prioritize girls' education, we as African leaders are telling our women that we do not care about you and your child's future. As one of those women, I will not accept this and I urge all our leaders to invest in our children's future. Investing in girls' education is not only a moral imperative, it is a smart investment.

On the 16th of June, the Day of the African Child, young people from across Africa will stand at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Abba, Ethiopia, and across Africa, to call on their governments to dedicate more resources -- the recommended 20 percent of national budgets -- to education and develop strong and transparent monitoring systems to track effectiveness and impact.

Better information on learning outcomes and public spending is key to achieving our goals. These young people want a brighter reality and they demand that their governments stand up to meet their responsibilities and commitments, in order to build a future for their children, a future for their country.

When nearly 60 developing countries come together in Brussels at the end of June, as part of the Global Partnership for Education, they will be asked to commit to increase education spending. If they do, we will know if they have listened to these young people, and then the phrase, "Africa Rising," can be used in all truthfulness.

Plan International's Because I Am A Girl campaign announces its #10daystoactinitiative, beginning on June 16 at the African Union meeting in Addis Ababa.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.