Now in its third year, the Uwezo findings have been truly sobering. Large majorities of children lack the competencies they are expected to have developed by the time they leave Primary School, with many unable to read and count at a Standard 2 level. Uwezo have demonstrated that schooling is not translating into learning, and as nations we are at risk. Without literate and numerate children, the very foundations of our democracies, social development and economic progress are jeopardized. If we are unable to grow equitably and creatively, then we are unable to compete, and we will be unable to craft and imagine better worlds.
The good news is that what it takes to turn things around is not rocket science. But first we need to shed our obsession with counting schooling inputs and instead focus squarely on learning outcomes – on what children are learning. Second, while lots of things are important, we need to hone in on the few factors that make a big difference in learning, such as motivating teachers and holding them accountable, and creating an environment for children that is engaging and interactive. All these are doable; there is a clear evidence of success from within our own countries that we can build on.
Whether we do so will depend on us. It depends on how we interact with our children and grandchildren; our colleagues and friends; teachers and the authorities. On how keenly we ask the right questions and seek to find sharp answers, on how doggedly we will act to make a difference in our own communities and hold out government to account.
And it starts with us.