How have Sub-Saharan African nations managed to assess students’ learning in the COVID-19 era? The KIX Africa 19 Hub highlights experiences and ideas from the region


On March 17, 2021, the KIX Africa 19 Hub Secretariat hosted an interactive virtual knowledge-sharing event titled Innovation in Assessment Emerging in the COVID-19 Era in Sub-Saharan Africa. The event featured presentations from education ministry officials and educators in four Global Partnership for Education (GPE) member countries—The Gambia, Kenya, Lesotho, and Sierra Leone—as well as from the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), UNICEF, and the African Union Commission - Institute of Education for Development.

The knowledge-sharing event was attended by 49 people from GPE member countries, ministries of education, universities and teacher colleges, and education advocacy groups. It was conducted by the three organizations leading the KIX Africa 19 Hub: UNESCO IICBA, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office (ESARO) and the African Union Commission (AUC). The KIX Africa 19 Hub is jointly funded by the GPE and the International Development and Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada and supports 18 member countries in their pursuit of education quality, equity and inclusivity by facilitating knowledge and innovation exchange (KIX).

The goal of the event was to give a platform to discuss the lessons that regional policymakers have learned about assessment practices, challenges, and priorities during COVID-19, and to expose what still needs to be done to improve learning outcomes and the assessment of learning in the present crisis of the pandemic as well as the larger learning crisis in many countries.

From Lesotho, Makhube Ralenkoane, the curriculum and assessment lead at the Ministry of Education and Training partnered with a local teacher, Letsatsi Ntsibolane from Lithabaneng High School, to discuss teachers’ capacity to use formative assessment during COVID-19. They shared audio interviews of girl students and their female teachers discussing their frustrations with assessment during the pandemic. A student at a Montessori primary school stated, “I think some teachers were able to mark [our assignments], but we don’t always see the marks…there was a lot of technical problems for teachers and students. It was not easy.” Another student at Lesotho High School echoed the challenges she and her classmates have been facing. She described how teachers ask them to upload assignments on social media platforms, but that “It wasn’t really easy. Most of us are able to learn when we are with our teachers in our classes. Some of us do not have phones and data all the time.”

From The Gambia, Fatimata Hydara, a senior education officer in the Assessment Unit at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and Alpha Bah, the head of the EMIS and ICT Unit at the Ministry, explained how national assessment results used for monitoring and development, and how their Star Award System encourages schools to engage in critical self-review.

From Sierra Leone, Brima Sesay, the learning assessment focal person at the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education and Emmanuel Deoud, the development partners coordination desk officer at the Ministry, presented on the creation and implementation of evidence-based assessment policies in their country. Mr. Sesay described how they developed surveys and reports to inform the learning assessment unit at the Ministry, and how the information is strengthening reforms in the country.

Anne Wanjiru Ngatia, a coordinator at the Kenya National Examinations Council, shared strategies to promote equity and inclusion through innovative assessment. Kenya’s new curriculum is competency based and promotes classroom-based assessments with a focus on twenty-first century learning, performance assessment, integrated ICT, and immediate or quick feedback to learners.

All countries had both accomplishments and challenges to share. Most reported their ongoing strides towards shifting from primary summative assessment towards more frequent formative assessment. This growth has been complicated by COVID-19, but not stopped.

Participants questioned the presenters and gave feedback on the event. One commented, “This webinar gave us ideas and starting points on themes for reflection on how to improve education and training in times of crisis, taking into account an essential concept such as evaluation.” A student teacher commented, “My main take way is the use of data and assessment tools to inform policy formulation. I hope that as I do my studies and research, I develop a problem based approach mindset to provide last mile solutions.”

A few of the participants in the knowledge-sharing event.

For comments or questions about this article, please contact Maryann Dreas-Shaikha at UNESCO IICBA at

For more information, please see the recording of the online event, and the following presentations:

Innovation in Assessment Emerging in the COVID-19 Era in Sub-Saharan Africa

Re-thinking Learning Assessment in the COVID-19 Era in Eastern, Western, and Southern Africa

Development and Implementation of Evidence-Based Polices on Learning Assessment in Sierra Leone

Innovative Strategies for Assessing Learning Outcomes Emerging in the COVID-19 Era in Sub-Saharan Africa: The case of Lesotho  

Learners' Views on Assessment During COVID-19: Lesotho (audio clip)

Promoting Equity & Inclusiveness in Learning through Innovative Assessment in Kenya

The Gambia Experience: Using Assessment Results