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Empowering Africa’s Youth: Strategies for Creating Inclusive and Relevant Education

by Neeraj A Sharma - 1 May, 2024, 12:00 77 Views 0 Comment

Africa, with the youngest population in the world and significant development potential, is at a turning point in its history. According to World Bank projections, the number of adults in the working age group on the continent would increase from 370 million in 2010 to over 600 million by 2030, a two-thirds increase. Africa has a demographic advantage, but it also faces serious obstacles. According to UNESCO, 98 million children and young people—half of them are girls—do not have access to an education. Establishing inclusive and accessible educational institutions that give young Africans the skills they need for the twenty-first century requires immediate effort. 

Addressing Foundational Skills Deficit

The lack of fundamental skills among African students is a serious concern. Digital literacy, numeracy, and literacy are essential for advancing one’s knowledge and abilities. Remarkably, compared to children around the world, African children are far less likely to acquire these fundamental abilities, leaving millions of them unable to face obstacles in their personal and professional lives. 

Challenges and Opportunities: Youth Perspectives

African youth are eager to participate in addressing global concerns, especially in education, and Local Youth Corner, in cooperation with Big Steps Outreach Network (BONET), is organizing consultation sessions that reflect this desire. Though there is hope that schooling will change by 2030, worries about Africa’s sluggish progress toward high-quality education continue. Poverty, tribalism, corruption, marginalization, and poor infrastructure are among the major issues noted. Youth highlights the importance of political commitment to putting the Education Commission’s recommendations into practice, raising the standard of education and providing all Africans with chances for lifelong learning. 

Bridging the Gap: Aligning Education with Youth Aspirations

The mismatch between current educational systems and the changing demands and ambitions of African youth represents another significant concern. Many young people address the lack of preparation they received from their schooling or occupational training for the demands of the modern workforce and the 21st-century environment. Furthermore, it is still difficult to have access to high-quality education and chances for skill development, especially in rural and conflict-affected areas. Furthermore, youth are frequently marginalized and underrepresented in discussions on education policy. 

Prioritizing Education: A Collaborative Endeavour

It is essential to completely restructure Africa’s educational system in order to overcome these obstacles. In order to make educational frameworks more innovative, inclusive, relevant, and sensitive to the needs and ambitions of young Africans, it is necessary to rethink and restructure them. 

In addition to being a basic human right, education is also essential for socioeconomic advancement. The African Union and the World Bank are stepping up their cooperation to make education a priority for Africa’s development agenda because they recognize its critical role. Through this relationship, Africa will be guided toward sustainable progress and prosperity and an investment in the present and future generations will be made. 

Empowering Youth Voices: The AU Youth-Led Manifesto

The African Union’s youth-led agenda on changing education in Africa is a promising first step in this direction. This declaration, which was created after intensive conversations with hundreds of young people throughout the continent, reflects their goals and suggestions for improving education and skill development. Policies guaranteeing equity and access, funding for teacher preparation, curriculum development that promotes cooperation and critical thinking, and using technology to improve instruction are some of the main recommendations.

Translating Vision into Action

There are now initiatives in place to turn these recommendations from the young into real action. The World Bank is leading significant programs to improve teaching and learning, support secondary education opportunities for girls, address the needs for higher-level skill development, and promote research and innovation in partnership with African governments and partners. In a similar vein, the African Union has started programs like the Make Africa Digital campaign and the Lead(H)er fellowship to empower youth and close the digital education gap. 

Maximizing Opportunities: The AU’s Year of Education 2024

The African Union’s proclamation of 2024 as the year of education highlights how urgent it is to give education top priority on the agenda for policy. Africa’s youth population is growing, so it is critical to change educational systems to give students 21st-century abilities. To make this vision a reality, there must be sufficient funding, an emphasis on equity and learning, investments in teacher preparation, accountability systems, and pertinent curriculum.

Joining the Conversation: A Call to Action

As Africa embarks on this transformative journey, active participation and collaboration from all stakeholders are paramount. Governments, civil society, the private sector, academia, media, and, notably, young people themselves must play pivotal roles. Therefore, we extend an invitation to join the conversation, share insights, and contribute ideas on transforming education in Africa. Let’s collaborate to unlock the full potential of education and empower Africa’s youth for a prosperous future.

Neeraj A Sharma
Author is Honorary Consul General of Republic of Palau to India
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