Message of support for Africa Play Conference by Minister of Basic Education in South Africa, Mrs Angie Motshekga

It is an incredible honour to host the first ever Africa Play Conference here in South Africa. I look forward to welcoming fellow Ministers’ of Education, departmental officials, academics, civil society organisations and NGO’s as we come together with the intention to gain insight into this important area of education and to share valuable insights.

It has become overwhelmingly evident through various research that the importance of Early Childhood Development cannot be understated in the ongoing development of a child throughout their schooling career.

In response to the demands of the 21st century skills, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in partnership with UNICEF South Africa and the LEGO Foundation, is currently implementing an initiative that focuses on the role of play-based learning in improving the quality of early learning under the auspices of POWER OF PLAY: A Learning Tool for a Powerful Future Programme.

We are proud to be able to share this research with our colleagues from across the continent as we work towardsdeveloping Africa and ensuring that we are ready to fully embrace the fourth industrial revolution and take full advantage of the opportunities identified therein.

We are working hard here in South Africa to improve Early Childhood Development and early primary education with an increased focus on learning through play. Modern educational approaches illustrate a dire need to address the delivery of curriculums that challenge traditional approaches to teaching, tapping into the inherent capabilities of children. This includes building on their curiosity in order to provide children with the foundations needed for lifelong learning and adaptations to a changing world.

This conference come at a time where we are, as a country and a continent, celebrating two icons, Tata Nelson Mandela and Mama Albertina Sisulu, who placed immense importance on the rights and well-being of children. It is fitting that this important milestone that focuses on providing high quality ECD offerings to help address many of the challenges we see in the subsequent levels of education, takes place in the year where we are honouring these two stalwarts who did so much for children.

We will use have used this centenary year to continue working hard to make their dreams a reality for our children by going back to the Basics for Life-Long Learning by improving learning through play.

I would like to thank all the partners for the relationship that makes it possible for the DBE to ensure that learning through play is happening where children are being empowered through fun, creativity and high quality learning, and I hope to gain valuable insights from colleagues across the continent as we work towards improving ECD for the children of Africa.


UNICEF South Africa is proud to partner with the Ministry and Department of Basic Education (DBE), the LEGO Foundation and the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) in hosting the inaugural Africa Continental Conference on Play-Based Learning for 21st C Skills. The timeliness of this conference is evident in the unique challenges that our children face compared to their peers a few decades ago. Ensuring every child’s right to quality education requires that education systems across the continent and the globe prepare children with the right skills, from an early age, with exciting opportunities to thrive in the face of significant challenges that characterize the 21st century. To accomplish this goal, we need to prepare and structure education systems from the foundational early childhood years with the right approaches to learning, growth and development that builds on their curiosity, their potential, the opportunities afforded by extensive technological advancement, all aimed at reorienting the way knowledge, skills and capacities are both acquired and developed.

And we are neither alone nor out of tune in this endeavour. The United Nations General Assembly’s Resolution 70/1 – Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development notes that we are in a time of immense challenges and immense opportunity. This is also reflected in the African Union’s Agenda 2063: The Africa We Want as well as in the African Union’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025. These goals and aspirations calls for a rethink in how basic education is defined, designed, delivered and assessed. It requires the rethinking and re-imagining learning.

Evidence is clear that play-based learning is one such key and important catalyst in laying the foundations for quality education and promoting lifelong learning from early childhood development up to the end of secondary school. The right to quality education in a changing world requires that those responsible for education needs to transform the delivery of curricula (pedagogy), which in turn necessitate that we challenge the traditional approaches, tapping the inherent capabilities of children including building on their curiosity, to provide children with the foundations needed for lifelong learning and adaptations to a changing world. Children need to become creative, solution-oriented learners who are prepared for the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century.

The Conference will enable leaders in education across the continent to share, learn and challenge each other together with African and international experts on the foundational role of learning through play as an integral part of education systems.  We are hopeful that this conference will drive and shape the conversation on the importance of play-based learning and good parenting for healthy brain development and creating the Africa we want. Nowhere is it better to start than in the early years.  Therefore, let us all strive to give children everywhere the best start in life.

The leadership of the South African Minister for Basic Education, Mrs Angie Motshekga, in this regard is lauded, and indeed an encouragement for leaders in Africa and the world.


The Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA) is honored to collaborate with the Ministry of Basic Education (DBE) of South Africa, the LEGO Foundation and UNICEF South Africa in hosting the first-ever Africa Continental Play-based Learning Conference.

By 2050, Africa is expected to account for more than half of the world’s population growth. Around 42% of the world’s births will take place in Africa. By 2100, if current trends persist, around 50% of all the world’s children will be African and that is why we must do more to give every child the best start in life so that they can fulfil their potential. Indeed, ADEA strongly believes that play-based learning in early childhood development (ECD) is the key to unlock Africa’s potential for improved quality education.

Now, it is time to put in place all the necessary mechanisms for an effective implementation and integration of play-based learning for the 21st century skills in the African education systems in order to improve the quality of early childhood development. To this end, the ADEA’s Inter-Country Quality Node on Early Childhood Development (ICQN-ECD), hosted by Mauritius, is for instance one such platform for African countries to build leadership capacity to accelerate progress in scaling up ECD interventions through knowledge sharing, a community of practice and peer learning.

Thanks to this important conference, ADEA and its partners hope to make our voice heard and to trigger some revolutionary changes in the education systems of all African countries.