The Future Readiness of Africa Lies With Its Youth, By Adetola Salau
More than fifty percent of the population in Nigeria will be younger than 25 soon and this is an important factor when planning for future development. If harnessed right, this growth could propel Africa to become more industrialised and advanced, of course if quality education is stressed and implemented right.
By crawling a child learns to stand. – African proverb
In the early nineties, I was taking my Junior West Africa Examination Council (WAEC) exam (the equivalent of the eighth grade exam to graduate to High School). My mother made me learn how to type because she foresaw a need to be a proficient typist in the oncoming computer revolution, as the outlay of the typewriter’s keyboard was the same as that of the personal computer.
It isn’t an exaggeration to say that I despised going for the typing lessons, in comparison to my friends who were free to enjoy the time off that we then had between the eighth and ninth grades. Looking back, I see that she was doing her best to equip me, despite the lack of resources we had back then and some of the teachers who were ill prepared to give us the most of the instruction we needed going into the future.
Even today, some children are still not digitally literate, and they still deal with teachers who aren’t qualified to teach them.
We have enormous challenges in the educational sector in Nigeria and other African nations. Quality education is missing from the lives of millions of children, which leads to the domino effect on poverty, child marriages, fragile economies, disenchanted youth who fall prey to crime easily, and an exponential unemployment rate.
Just last week, I spoke at the Total Support Seminar Exhibition, known popularly as TOSSE by educators in Africa, which is the biggest education show that brings together different players in the educational sector together for two days. The Finnish Ambassador was in attendance, as was the Commissioner of Education, Ogun State. Hafsat Abiola-Costello also came to lend her support to education reform at the programme.
I addressed the over 250 participants on the impending explosion in youth population in Africa; especially in a populous nation like Nigeria. More than fifty percent of the population in Nigeria will be younger than 25 soon and this is an important factor when planning for future development. If harnessed right, this growth could propel Africa to become more industrialised and advanced, of course if quality education is stressed and implemented right.
The World Development report by The World Bank for 2018 paints a rather dismal picture that “37 million African children will learn so little in school that they will not be much better off than kids who never attend school” (Van Fleet, 2012). It is emphasised in the report that teachers are a critical component of children’s instructional outcomes. Yet, across the board due to the lack of teachers to meet the burgeoning demand for educators, the standards for teachers are being lowered. In Nigeria, young graduates with no qualifications or training are sent to teach impressionable minds in droves.
I spoke about the ridiculously high rate of unemployment that we currently have and how university students hope against hope that their diplomas will still have value when they graduate.
Our goal should be to create an education that meets the challenge of getting our students equipped for competition in the 21st century global marketplace.
I firmly believe that teachers are leaders, if we train more of our young ones as qualified teachers, in one stroke we solve unemployment and also address educational inequity.
When we have young, vibrant teachers working with our children in various communities, especially in our low-income and under-resourced ones, they will gain leadership skills and also effect a major transformation in the education sector. This service would build them up effectively as leaders.
The biggest takeaway of our young ones who are teaching is that they will learn about the intersections between public sectors to education, as was depicted in a picture that connects all of the SDG (Sustainable development Goals) goals to education that I shared on all of my social media platforms over two weeks ago. They will understand how health plays a major factor in a child’s cognitive development and could serve as a barrier to his or her academic achievement.
A fundamental consideration like this is gained through connecting with their students in the classroom, as they teach and understand the interconnectedness of everything to quality education for their students.
I started as a teacher due to an event that changed the world and my understanding of the world has never ever been the same. I ask our young ones to also give back to our communities for a short season and expand their mental and emotional horizons.