Sustaining Commitment and Cooperation for Advancing the SDG Education related goal in Southern Africa development agenda

Education is at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and essential for the success of all SDGs. Recognizing the important role of education, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development highlights education as a stand-alone goal (SDG 4) and also includes targets on education under several other SDGs, notably those on health; growth and employment; sustainable consumption and production; and climate change. In fact, education can accelerate progress towards the achievement of all of the SDGs and therefore should be part of the strategies to achieve each of them. UNESCO, as the specialized UN agency for education, is mandated to lead and coordinate the Education 2030 agenda.

The education agenda encapsulated in Goal 4 is comprehensive, holistic, ambitious, aspirational and universal, and inspired by a vision of education that transforms the lives of individuals, communities and societies, leaving no one behind. The agenda attends to the unfinished business of the EFA goals and the education-related MDGs, while effectively addressing current and future global and national education challenges. It is rights-based and inspired by a humanistic vision of education and development, based on the principles of human rights and dignity, social justice, peace, inclusion and protection, as well as cultural, linguistic and ethnic diversity and shared responsibility and accountability. The Education 2030 Framework for Action guides the implementation of SDG4.

The targets of SDG4/Education 2030 are specific and measurable, and contribute directly to achieving the overarching goal. They articulate a global level of ambition that should encourage countries to strive for accelerated progress.

  • Target 4.1: By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes
  • Target 4.2: By 2030, ensure that all girls and boys have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education so that they are ready for primary education
  • Target 4.3: By 2030, ensure equal access for all women and men to affordable and quality technical, vocational and tertiary education, including university
  • Target 4.4: By 2030, substantially increase the number of youth and adults who have relevant skills, including technical and vocational skills, for employment, decent jobs and entrepreneurship
  • Target 4.5: By 2030, eliminate gender disparities in education and ensure equal access to all levels of education and vocational training for the vulnerable, including persons with disabilities, indigenous peoples and children in vulnerable situations 
  • Target 4.6: By 2030, ensure that all youth and a substantial proportion of adults, both men and women, achieve literacy and numeracy
  • Target 4.7: By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development 
  • Target 4.a: Build and upgrade education facilities that are child, disability and gender sensitive and provide safe, non-violent, inclusive and effective learning environments for all 
  • Target 4.b: By 2020, substantially expand globally the number of scholarships available to developing countries, in particular least developed countries, small island developing States and African countries, for enrolment in higher education, including vocational training and information and communications technology, technical, engineering and scientific programmes, in developed countries and other developing countries 
  • Target 4.c: By 2030, substantially increase the supply of qualified teachers, including through international cooperation for teacher training in developing countries, especially least developed countries and small island developing States

Implementing SDG4 at country level implies an effort to align national policies and plans to targets and focus areas reflected in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.

Regional Interventions

UNESCO ROSA has supported National Consultations on SDG4 in countries under its coverage. The meetings brought together national stakeholders involved in implementing and coordinating the Education agenda in their countries. The consultations allowed countries to examine how SDG4 targets and focus areas are embedded in their national education policies and planning processes. The participants discussed the dissemination mechanisms for advocating the SDG4 as well as, suggested partnership and coordination modalities to ensure the meeting of the SDG4 targets.

Following the support to countries in organizing National Consultations on SDG4, UNESCO ROSA organized a Southern Africa Regional Consultation on SDG4 on September 28, 2016 in Lusaka, Zambia. During the regional consultation, participants explored and examined key priorities of the SDG4 agenda in the regional context; identified modalities for SDG4 regional coordination, partnership, monitoring and follow-up mechanisms which can further support the national implementation; and agreed on roles and responsibilities for taking forward the SDG4/Education 2030 agenda. 

At regional level, identified action points included the development of a regional implementation plan and advocacy strategy, sharing of resources and expertise, and the need for periodic thematic consultative meetings, capacity building and collaboration on data collection.

Following this, UNESCO will furthermore provide support to member states towards:

  1. The integration and/or finalization of SDG4 targets and focus areas in the national policies and planning processes of Member States;
  2. The development of and dissemination of SDG4 materials at the Regional level that can be adapted/adopted to the national level;
  3. Information sharing on countries that finalized mainstreaming SDG4-Education 2030 in their national plans;
  4. The participation of delegates in the region to regional and sub-regional fora like the Pan African ED 2030-CESA 2025 meeting in Nairobi (2018).
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