Africa can recoup over half of pandemic GDP losses by using evidence-based ‘accelerated learning’ to help children catch up

  • Global study highlights key lessons from a decade of accelerated learning across Africa condensing up to three school years into one for out-of-school children affected by extreme poverty, conflict, and Ebola
  •  Foundation says Africa can lead world in learning recovery, launches evidence-based guide for education leaders to design post-COVID catch-up learning plans

ZURICH, Switzerland, 7 September 2022,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/-African countries could recover over half of the pandemic-related GDP losses caused by the lost earnings from a generation of children whose education has been interrupted, if countries adopt evidence-based ‘accelerated education’ approaches to help children catch up on lost learning, an educational foundation said today.

It is estimated that full and partial school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic will cost Africa US$28 billion in lost GDP. Children across Africa have lost on average 34 weeks of learning since 2020, this on top of the 105 million children and youth out of school before the pandemic – the highest rates globally.

‘Joyful learning’ in an accelerated learning classroom in Liberia. 
Credit: The Luminos Fund, a non-profit initiative to bring the world’s best available evidence into the hands of education leaders, calculates that African countries could recover US$18 billion a year if they apply the best accelerated education interventions to recover lost learning and reach children who were out of school even before the pandemic. This GDP recovery figure builds on McKinsey estimates of earning losses, combined with the foundation’s analysis of accelerated education programmes (AEPs), largely drawn from African countries.

Dr Randa Grob-Zakhary, Founder and CEO of said: “While the COVID-19 pandemic ushered in the worst education crisis in history – with huge implications for the futures of an entire generation of children – the good news is that Africa can lead the world with solutions drawn from a decade of accelerated education work with children missing school due to extreme poverty, conflict, refugee crises and health challenges like the Ebola epidemic.” has packaged a wide range of evidence, much of it previously unpublished, into an Evidence Synthesis and a High-Level Policy Guidance Document, outlining the steps education leaders can take to strengthen accelerated learning in their countries.

This research illustrates how the best AEPs can condense three grades of primary school into one school year, cutting the overall length of instruction by two-thirds. AEPs have successfully supported students’ transition into the formal education system by compressing the curriculum to focus on the essentials of literacy and numeracy, while recruiting and training educators to teach in a more child-focused, activity-based way and supporting students’ wider wellbeing.

Ethiopia’s Speed Schools are highlighted as a pioneering example of the accelerated learning approach. Over the past decade, they have supported more than 250,000 out-of-school 9-14-year-olds to learn, transitioning 95 per cent into formal schooling, with higher-than-average results. These Speed Schools are so successful they have been adopted by the Ethiopian Government, with a dedicated Speed School Unit, and the model has spread elsewhere.

Accelerated education has often been used in emergency contexts such as South Sudan where half of all primary-aged children are out of school as a result of the civil war. It is now being piloted in a scheme to help practicing teachers there to attain their secondary education. Research from Liberia, Northern Nigeria, and Sierra Leone demonstrates the value of AEPs in supporting education systems in countries affected by war, the Ebola epidemic, and related crises of teenage pregnancies. In Kenya and Uganda, they have provided vital support to vulnerable refugee children.

As African leaders gear up for the United Nations Transforming Education Summit, 16th – 19th September, set to address “the profound structural flaws of education systems worldwide,” Dr Grob-Zakhary said the successes of accelerated education offered a vision for how leaders could rethink their education systems.

“This research demonstrates to leaders that concrete action is possible, to support catch-up learning strategies post-pandemic and to transform African education systems,” she said.

“In the successes of accelerated education programmes across Africa and beyond – in their pragmatism, their child-centred approach to learning and the support they give to teachers and communities – we believe lie some of the answers for how to reimagine education systems from the bottom up.”’s peer reviewed analysis includes a deeper look at accelerated learning experiences in eight African countries: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, South Sudan, and Uganda. It highlights to education leaders the importance of:

  •          Starting with a thorough assessment of the national or local situation in each country
  •         Anchoring accelerated learning into existing national education plans, curricula, and calendars
  •          Implementing policies for the flexible assessment, placement, and promotion of learners
  •          Supporting communities in enrolling, teaching, and retaining children in school

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