“As a group, African young people today have a higher level of educational attainment than any previous cohorts, but nevertheless face serious challenges that will erode their potential if governments do not prioritize investments in youth development.”
By Jennifer Ehidiamen
A couple of months ago, I started sharing some of the findings in the 2011 State of the Africa Youth Report, which was published by African Union in partnership with UNFPA. The report covers areas such as demographic situation, Education, Labour Market participation, hunger and poverty, Youth mobility, health, civic participation and other issues affecting youth.
Focusing on Education today, the report highlighted interesting findings, which includes a recorded increase in youth literacy rate due to improved access to primary education. “…The youth literacy rate has risen in Africa over the last two decades; increasing by 18% in North Africa and by 6% in sub-Saharan Africa. Currently 87% and 76% of young people are able to read and write in the two regions respectively.” The report stated.
As part of an effort to improve the quality of education at all levels, African government and other bodies launched the Second Decade of Education for Africa (2006-2015) a few years ago. It can be recalled that members of then Organization of African Unity proclaimed the first Decade of Education for Africa (1996-2006) in 1996. However, most of the set goals were not achieved due to lack of investment in the education sector by the government and stakeholders.
Meanwhile, according to the State of Africa Youth Report, although a third of young Africans are currently not making transition from primary to secondary school education at the set age, youth literacy rates remain high in all regions, especially in North Africa.
In October 2011, about 210 youth delegates of the 7th UNESCO Youth Forum, representing 127 Member States met at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris to discuss “How YOUTH drive change”. At the end of the session, some of the recommendations they made focusing on Education include the need for Member States:
- to ensure access to equal quality public education as a basic human right and to ensure free, universal and mandatory education to secondary level, especially in rural areas;
- to eliminate all forms of discrimination, especially against the most vulnerable segments of society, and to promote human rights-based education;
- to ensure women’s and girls’ empowerment, and also encourage gender equality in acquiring essential life skills, as well as including literacy and sexuality education;
- to ensure access to quality formal and non-formal education, including informal education, intercultural education, values-based education and civic education, as equal parts of general education;
- to ensure a fair educational system, taking into consideration refugee children or children with migration backgrounds and creating possibilities that these children could also succeed in school;
- to recognize sport and arts education as key elements to prevent violence and to promote a culture of peace;
- to include disaster-risk prevention, management and rehabilitation and environmental protection in education systems;
- In response to employment challenges, to expand the scope of education by including entrepreneurial skills and training opportunities, and intergenerational partnerships for youth aligned to rapidly changing labour market needs, particularly in non-traditional fields, such as e-learning.
Similarly, among the recommendation for African government presented in the State of the African Youth Report, is the need for African leaders to take action and renew their commitment in realizing the goals presented in the Second Decade of Education for Africa (2006-2015). We need to unlearn the culture of beautifully articulating solutions in documents and never taking action on them in real life.
If African government leaders really want to develop the human resource in the region and reduce poverty and inequality, then they must take the education business very seriously and invest more in it!