Despite progress made in Education in Africa over the past two decades, which include considerable increase in access to education, education in Africa continue to face numerous challenges in the 21st century. African countries need to ensure that new schools are built and millions of teachers are trained and hired. Obstacles to access such as user fees need to be eliminated. Schools need to be transformed so that they are more accessible, and offer friendly environments for girls, disabled children, pastoralists, and minorities who are presently excluded. Moreover, to successfully educate their citizenry for them to participate fully in national development, countries will have to invest in the full "Education for All" agenda. In all this resides an increase in national commitment to developing a communication strategy for Education for All. Broadening access, improving quality, and building capacities, together with the resources and the reforms to accomplish them, will require the participation of and dialogue between the various actors and partners in education. Communication is central to securing these partnerships. Communication programs in education encourages exchange of information within a community and internationally, helps draw out consensus in a group, stimulates the collective action needed to solve specific problems, maximizes coordination, and harmonizes donor support to specific initiatives. The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), the World Bank, with financial support from the Norwegian Education Trust Fund, and in collaboration with the West African News media and Development Center (WANAD), have supported COMED, an initiative to tackle this question and to promote the use of communication in support of education.

What is COMED ?

The Working Group on Communication for Education and Development (COMED) program was established in 1998 to help build national consensus and enhance public support for education policies and programs. COMED became an ADEA Working Group in 2002. The Working Group is made up of four major constituencies : ministries of education through their communication or information units, media specialized in education reporting, communication researchers and trainers, and development organizations involved in the Working Group’s areas of concern. OSISA is the lead agency for the Working Group, and the WANAD centre the host institution..

What are the objectives of the working group ?

The Working Group on Communication for Education and Development has outlined certain objectives that are linked to the EFA FTI objectives of building capacity, developing education sector plans at national level by promoting dialogue, consensus and understanding through communication, and strengthening EFA FTI partnerships between ministries of education and other stakeholders such as parents. They are :

  • Strengthen the capacity of communication units in ministries of education in African countries to promote national dialogue and consensus for education policies and programmes ;
  • Develop a network of trained journalists within the African media to report on issues of education and development ;
  • Enhance the exchange and distribution of news and information among ADEA constituencies, including African journalists specializing in education issues and communication officers in education ministries ;

In addition, COMED’s Strategic Plan includes a proposal for a performance measurement framework for the Working Group. Together with partners, user-friendly monitoring and evaluation systems that will be able to evaluate COMED’s roles, its level and user satisfaction and the developmental impact of its activities will be developed. Results and new knowledge will be shared with all partners ensuring that lessons are learned from experiences. Research institutions, their activities and data-bases in education will be better promoted among journalists and other communicators. Training in the use of educational statistics and other data-related experiences for reporters and correspondents would be necessary, as is the creation of user-friendly Education Management Information Systems (EMIS).

Last but not least, adequate resources will be mobilized for executing the programs and work plans of the Working Group.

What does the working group do ?

The Working Group’s main activities are :

  • National and sub-regional training workshops for journalists and communication officers ;
  • Building a network of education journalists and education ministry communication officers ;
  • Organizing media coverage of major education events in Africa ;
  • Organizing the Africa Education Journalism Award that recognizes the best articles on education by African journalists ;
  • Research and advisory services in communication for education and development.

COMED is also involved in a number of other activities, including studies of African media reporting on education ; consultations with African broadcasters to explore policy changes for enhancing and extending use of community radio for education promotion ; and the preparation of training materials on communication for policy dialogue. Assistance to the Fédération africaine des associations des parents d’élèves et d’étudiants (FAPE) through its project, L’Ecole des parents, entered the operational phase in 2004 and 2005, with radio broadcasts in which parents speak to parents, about education. Evaluation has shown that this is a promising initiative.

COMED will in the medium term, 2008-2012, give priority to capacity reinforcement for education ministries to enable them communicate more effectively. Therefore attention is to be given to the institutional and corporate communication challenges facing education ministries and how to assist them to adopt more strategic and results-oriented communication approaches in support of on-going and proposed education reforms. In addition, a concerted advocacy initiative will be directed towards the leadership of education ministries at the highest political and technical levels so as to commit them to giving communication strategies greater visibility in policy development and management in the education sector. The COMED medium term strategic plan for 2008-2012 adequately reflects key international agreements and initiatives including the Millennium Development Goals and the broader Education for All agenda.