From 11 to 13 March, NEPAD convened a regional conference on arts education in Africa in collaboration with the Departments of Basic Education (DBE) and Arts and Culture (DAC), amongst others. According to NEPAD CEO Ibrahim Assane Mayaki, the conference offered possibilities for the delegates to ‘have an opportunity to establish a framework that has long-term significance for how Arts Education is accessed and practiced for future generations’. Accordingly, delegates from the South African Development Community (SADC) engaged on the future of arts education, drawing from case studies of efforts that have been undertaken regionally and beyond.
The discussions led to the spot-light being put on a human, social and economic outlook that involved partnerships between schools, communities and arts institutions as well as challenges such as the financing and endorsement of initiatives. As a result, the DBE as well as the DAC ushered a refreshing view when they shared that the two departments have a framework of collaboration that is currently under review. GET Chief Education Specialist for Arts Education at the DBE, Dr Sello Galane, shared the consultative steps that DBE took to put in place toward the current creative arts as well as arts subjects for both GET and FET respectively. This included resourcing implementation in schools.
Through his presentation, it became evident that there is a need for artists to appreciate aspects entailed in education. That it is not enough to be an artist and seek to share experiences in the classroom, but that artists need to attain professional skills to be able to interact with learners and teachers. Nevertheless the DAC Artists in Schools programme is already operational, and positive feedback is emerging, and in many ways bridging the gap between formal and non-formal education. In this regard, conference key note speaker and cultural sociologist Rubén Gaztambide-Fernández, argues that the conference agenda offers an opportunity to reimagine arts education, and how it interfaces with communities.
The conference discussions also showed that the education system that African countries have, continue to uphold the colonial ethos and in the case of South Africa is marred by Apartheid. The conference identified methodologies of implementing Arts Education as fundamental if the continent is to assert itself toward a generic and adaptable framework for arts education in Africa. It also emerged that forming an Arts Education movement will go a long way in strengthening the civil society voice in changing the face of Arts Education in the continent. NEPAD Advisor: Education: Youth Programme Director, Mzobz Mboya stressed that participants should take ownership of the process at both an individual and organisational level, and that they should become its drivers because the whole process forms part of discussions in shaping African Union’s bold 2063 agenda.
There was a concern that was raised though, that conferences such as the one in point, tend to come up with brilliant idea without any concrete action. Toward this end, National Arts Council CEO Rosemary Mangope emphasised that such a practice should change. She further echoed the notion that Monitoring and Evaluation systems should be put in place to enable accountability for all involved. Furthermore, she asserted that we should aim to experience the conference outcomes in our lifetime.
Where to from here?
· Arts Education to be an agenda item in the upcoming summit for Ministers of Basic education, culture, sport and youth in June 2015;
· Further consultations on Arts Education to continue in the continent; and
· Common position paper on Arts Education by Africa to emerge.
In the meantime, we continue to do what we know best: using the arts to facilitate teaching and learning in various contents.