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A Broken System
Since I was a child I have had a deep conviction to make a difference. I have valued leadership, equality, social justice, environmental stewardship, and so much more. This is because of education. I started in the poorest district in Colorado, one of the worst funded education systems in the country. I finished in one of the lowest funded, 27J. I knew this throughout my life. I knew if I wanted to learn, I needed to go outside of my over crowded classroom. Not physically, but mentally. I spent my lunches and the 15 minutes before the bus came after school, in my teachers’ rooms. Through out high school I formed so many bonds with them, I was the living definition of, “it takes a village to raise a child.” This deep connection with my teachers made budget cuts tear on my heartstrings because I knew how much my teachers tried everyday. I knew they were making a difference because of passion, never their paycheck, but that didn’t make it easier. I struggled with the packed classrooms and I wasn’t even the one trying to manage them. I watched my school downgrade every year as more millions were cut and I thought once I graduated I would leave to never look back, but I was dead wrong.
I was in my freshmen year of college when I found out the bond to fund my hometown district failed. I sat in the corner of the dining hall, tears falling, with a fellow Prairie View grad. We knew how much our teachers did. I was a teacher’s aide every year, I was in Student Council, played and managed soccer, and saw first-hand the passion that pushed my teachers. I have seen some of the best teachers lose their jobs while worksheet teachers with no dedication, skid by every year, just like their students. I went from being a proud, involved Thunder-hawk to a disappointed, ashamed alumnus. After my first year of college I returned to my hometown with a plan on how to pass MillLevi 3A, the bond to fund our district. 3 attempted emails later I finally got a response from the superintendent about a meeting. I prepped a PowerPoint, an outlined plan, all backed up with data I spent personal time to find. I showed up with faith and hope to be completely shot down. I didn’t even get to open my presentation. I was told, “No. The polling says no.” Not even a chance for me to show all the hard work I put in with my limited free time.
I left that meeting, got amped up again with “Pass 3A 2.0 - Revised Plan.” Sent the email, no response. A year later, I still haven’t heard a word. The only things I’ve heard about the district is their failing grades provided by the state.
This is the Year of the Student. I have created, signed, and shared petitions because my name on a list of thousands will be more heard than my endless attempts to reach out to my own district as a citizen, alumni, and former aspiring educator.
I wanted nothing more than to teach high school English. I was happy with little pay, as long as I had a chance at making a difference in someone’s life like the many teachers who changed mine. Now, I have no desire. My plan has completely changed because the way I have seen administrations treat their committed teachers, and lack of passion for students. Their conviction seems to lie in power more than anything, and it was painfully obvious as a student who could see teachers immediately on edge as an administrator walked by. As experienced administrators get pushed out, inexperienced, power hungry rookies come waltzing in the door. Quite frankly, it is disgraceful.
No one has to say a word, the passion is being defeated by arrogance, and it’s written on the helpless faces of so many.
Disgusted. That is the only word that comes to mind when I think of my Alma mater. The place that inspired me to be a leader and follow my heart now inspires me to dedicate my whole being to fixing the broken system. No matter what it takes. I will follow a graduate degree in Education Policy and return to secondary education to reform it. Because if I have learned anything from seeing the management at district 27J, it’s that it needs to be scrapped and rebuilt from the bottom up.
I send this letter in hopes it will inspire and evoke those sitting in positions of power, to dedicate themselves towards make a positive difference for students, teachers, and this community. I know some things are out of your hands, but conviction towards change, brings it and I hope that in your leadership positions you can devote yourself towards trying to make change like, and for, the many teachers who challenge and inspire students every single day.
Go to School, graduate and get a Job
Many years back, what was prevalent amongst the advice of our parents was that, it is important to go to school. No doubt, education is very important in order to acquire required knowledge in diverse areas and for development. We were not only encouraged to go to school but motivated and given incentives to ensure we complete. I remember my parents used to tell me the importance of education which I also discovered as I grew up. In their words…“if you go to school, after you graduate, you will get a good job”. Ofcourse, this has been the experience of so many people however, it may no longer apply in this process.
One of the buzz words which is prevalent in development is ‘entrepreneurship’. You may have also met or read about people who are proudly entrepreneurs by profession. Entrepreneurs own their own businesses and live up to the risks involved in managing businesses. How can entrepreneurs then extend these opportunities for wider societal development impact while ensuring that their entrepreneurship targets are met?
Social entrepreneurs as defined by Ashoka ‘are individual with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems, it further mentioned that they are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change’. The youth make up more than 60% of the Nigerian population. Nigeria also has a large number of unemployed youth hence, the need for change in thinking and time to start getting innovative. The government makes promises in every sector for what they plan to do or provide as the case maybe however, will definitely not be able to cater for the whole population especially with the problem of good governance. Globally, there is general excitement at the discovery of a new way of doing things which demonstrates that innovation in development is crucial.
The world is yearning for social entrepreneurs who will not wait for the government of their country but step up their thinking for innovative ideas and solutions for wider societal good. So, as you go through school, while also allowing school to go through you, be open to other form of learning and ideas. This should be the thinking for today and advice to all energetic youth out there.
No more Politics give Us quality Education #YouthSkillsWork
ekan samu wure! (I have found the place)
“Education to me is very important, it makes someone to understand life…but for me formal education should be incorporated with vocational training, so that when one is out of school and get no government job or any work at all, one can fall back on his skills and start private business, that is if government will give needed assistance to start..”.
- Ismaila Kaduna-Nigeria 28
- “Without education you cannot go anywhere, it is the best life for me…so more schools be built in our neighbourhood…and school fees reduced or removed” – Hadiza 16yrs Kaduna-Nigeria
`ekan samu wure! Which though not the real meaning literally means I have found the place drop me here or am getting off here n Hausa language a popular language spoken in Northern part of Nigeria and some part of Africa it is a daily phrase you hear if you commute through the public transport system. That phrase seems to be the shout of African youths as regard the reality of illiteracy, we are shouting, we are tired please drop us from this carry along and non-inclusive policy on all matters that concerns young people. Whereas few people dispute youths’ right to education, few efforts are made to ensure that youths actually benefit from education services.
I have grown up to know that education does not save you from deception, even at that it is still the only way out of oppression anyway. I know no system is perfect but here at home in Africa we must stop using that as an excuse to cut off a generational consciousness, because it is only a generational consciousness powered through education that can bring about the desired impact when young people get leadership power or get into places of influence.
I once read it somewhere that we have no future without children; worst of all what kind of future we would have with children without any form of education, I have witnessed a few crises both political and tribal here in Nigeria and those that used as fighters are young people with no education. I see children that are religiously confused both Muslim and Christian and worst of all those that do not belief in anything and they are more in number and can be bought over by the highest bidder because they have no means of livelihood. They do not understand how a civilized society works; they wake-up with no life goal; football viewing centres is their homes. However all this have to change, we as young people are saying youths are more of an asset, not really beneficiary of developmental project, like it seems now.
In over 15 years of serving humanity through volunteering for youthful causes from educational outreach to psychosocial health issues among youths, am a living witness to what education at whatever level can do, and when combined with life skills training, then you are creating a generation that would do wonders. From my activeness as a volunteer I came into leadership position as the youth coordinator in 2002, representing the youth on the management board of the Red Cross society in my region, (Benue) it was in this position, that I learnt the first lesson of youth participation, that is there is no place for the youth in leadership, not because we cannot lead but because the adult that failed in their youth, are afraid of what ‘I do not know’, so for youths to earn their place at the top, they must bring innovative ideas to the table, this I did through an inert embodiment of a balance necessary to learn quickly and perform exceptionally in new, challenging environments. Adding enthusiastic desire to take any initiative and being hard working; you must learn to put them at ease, while with you. We have to be genuine, optimistic and have a confident personality, with well-developed leadership skills, and have ways to engage challenges and challenge self and others to work collaboratively and approach issues in an innovative ways; these were the virtues that earned me a place among the ‘strong and mighty at that level’. I would not have done that, if I was not priviledged to have gotten some form of education and training.
As a youth camp director for eight years (2001-2008), I saw, the desire among youths to educate themselves, but there was a weak system to help them, even when they strive to attend, instructional materials are not available, cost of education are becoming expensive, we were not discouraged, we encouraged ourselves, those that could afford it then went ahead, other took advantage of the public system education that are available though not quality enough but it was affordable, while other enrolled into various skills programme. Looking back now we have over a hundred graduate, encouraged t
To collaborate my story that we are tired, I decided to interview our present gateman Ismaila Jamiau 28 years old, and a house-made to my neighbour Hadiza Emmanuel a 16 years old girl in the quarters where I live in Kaduna state-Nigeria, currently ending a one year volunteer service, teaching in college, he has they desire to go back to school after failing to get the needed five credit from high school (secondary school) to get him to college, as I wrote this piece he has gone back to register to re-sit for his examinations, in his words “Education to me is very important, it makes someone to understand life…but for me formal education should be incorporated with vocational training, so that when one is out of school and get no government job or any work at all, one can fall back on his skills and start private business, that is if government will give needed assistance to start. Also pray man-know-man should end with our parents and politicians from our areas should also pick the challenge to give educational scholarship”
For Hadiza, she was brought from the village to stay with a family; she attends evening secondary schools that fits to her work schedule, does her chores in the morning, while her employers and their kids are away to work and school, so on their return, she heads to school, the concern is the fatigue and concentration level in school, after such a tedious work, but she feels, it is better than no education at all, at least she can read now and getting to write gradually. “….though to be honest afternoon school is not that good because them the environment is not conducive to learn mathematics…but for many people like me that cannot wake and get ready for school, unless we finish our house work, it is helping us to at least get a form of education. So I appeal to government to build more school in our neighbourhood and get us better environment.”
We are tired of relying on politics and politicians, because we only do what is popular, depend on their opinion and appear better that we are; we want to be productive, becoming better than we appear and provide substance. So the appeal is build more schools that are equipped with instructional materials, open more vocational centres and get trained and qualified personnel to train us, until then ekan samu wure!, we would not go with carry along again.
Learn………on congoles children. we need safe access to education
Congolese children in class. Help congolese students with comfortable equipments and infrastructures. Photo submitted by Prince Wilondja.
Les enfants de la République démocratique du Congo étudiant en plein air à l’Est fuyant la guerre et sont sans soutien.
Education and doors to it for all
By Muntazir Mahdi from Pakistan
Muntadir is a youth activist, global change maker and peace ambassador, who has been linked with numerous local and international organizations to help make the world a better place. You can see his introductory video here.
In Pakistan, where the literacy rate ranges from 97% to 5% between urban and rural areas, the huge difference clearly indicate the problems and reasons behind closed doors to education for millions of children in the world. Yes, the main problems are poverty, dual systems working in urban & rural areas, regional mindsets, cultural differences and largely an unfortunate chain process in generations’ upbringing that lead the new comers to step in to the same trend or profession which his/her father or family has, instead of enrolling into school.
The keys to open these closed doors are not impossible to get if the action is started in right sequence that consists of:
- Alerting the parents about the bad results from stopping their children from education.
- Transforming child labour concept & practice into child education & skilled based vocational trainings.
- Involving schools and corporate sector into the process of spreading education and supporting the causes under umbrella of their CSR projects.
- Developing an environment of equal rights & options for girls and as well as for less dominating societies.
- Shifting the basic education material into small digital videos & mobile version (preferably translated into local languages).
Moving into depths of these points; as parents will start understanding the importance of education, it will automatically stop the inclusion of more children into the uneducated circle, and will make it easier to cope with those who are already spending lives uneducated; out of which many are child labours who often are pushed into work instead of education due to poverty, but if established schools and corporate sector jump in this process and contribute their role as CSR, an evident change will be no more far as if for say one school enrols & provide free education till 10th Grade to 20 child labours while on other hand corporate sector play its role in form of financially supporting the same children families & this way compensating the amount that these children used to earn through child labour activities. Later these children are provided with skill based vocational training or short diplomas which will enable them to get a decent job in the field of work they like and then support/earn for their families through it.
Moreover, this advancement will lead into advancing the mindsets of traditional families too and they will start allowing their girls or the minorities to get education as well since they will know that it make their society better and when basic education will be available into small videos or mobile version then there will be no limitations of buildings, finances or teacher force as now every third person has a mobile in hand and education on it can make a new, beginner, half lived, old one or anyone educate himself/herself anywhere anytime through mobile education & small videos.
The change is not far; it’s the choice of right keys and option that will lead to open doors for all around the World.
Youth Advocacy Group
By Ayshah Mshe
UNFA is calling on young people working to increase access to education, Are you a young person working to increase access to education, improving the quality of education and fostering global citizenship? The United Nations wants to hear from you and counts on your support! Your organization or network can nominate you to be a part of the Youth Advocacy Group for Education First, the UN Secretary-General’s Global Initiative on Education, by sending your CV/résumé and a short written statement to [firstname.lastname@example.org] by 26 August 2012.
Quantity or Quality? Skills Development in Lagos State
‘The quality of education in Nigeria has fallen’ is a popular saying among Nigerians especially educationists and those who had their education when things where good – before the 80’s. Drastic increase in population, corruption, scarce resources, policy instability, poor planning and implementation have been the main challenges of the sector that have impacted on the sector’s development and growth.
More recently government at different levels in the country have been somewhat reckless in their decisions, choice of programs, policy formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation with usually undeserving interests in politicizing, ethicizing and sectionalizing of issues and approach to its work; mostly without considerations to the quality of education and services rendered. A more recent case in study is the federal government of Nigeria’s creation of 9 new universities in November 2010 that cuts across all Nigeria’s 6 ‘geo-Political zones’, bringing the total number of federal universities in the country to 37. This was in a time when already existing universities are poorly funded and lacks the capacity to train graduates that has the skills and competence to compete in the labour market.
Youth, Skills and Work: Why we need contextualized education
By Grace Mwaura
At a conference on young people, farming and food in Africa, I was glad to discuss with leading researchers and practitioners in the field of young people and agriculture in Africa, the subject of education and training as a priority for the agrifood-youth nexus. Thinking of Youth, Skills and Work, I have no better words to explain why I stress contextualized education and training, than to refer to my conversations and paper[i] at the conference and a recently published blog by the New Agriculturalist and few blogs i have previously written.
For the purpose of this blog, I will however focus on the overall workforce in Africa: demographic dividend[ii] and not only the agrifood sector. I challenge the emerging notion that agrifood sector in Africa presents major opportunities to solve the pre-conceived and framed youth challenge of unemployment. Indeed, as I will show through education and training, the biggest challenge is in the structures of the preparing the workforce for whatever socio-economic sector.
Education and training remains priority for the future of young people. It is however contested whether education on its own is adequate to guarantee improved livelihoods and economies, whether education has limits, or whether education systems should be changing to accommodate the transforming social economic and political times and spaces. I am struck by the words of the Late Prof. Wangari Maathai, who in her book[iii], The ‘Challenge for Africa’ lamented how the elite people trained in agriculture at her time did not value working in rural Africa, and instead preferred white-collar jobs in the city. For decades, farming, like other rural activities, was framed as an activity of the poor, uneducated and immobile people in the village. Education was viewed as the solution to save one from being a poor farmer in the future. In school, agricultural education was not presented as an integral part of the daily life of an individual, even though their daily encounters included helping their parents on their farms or in the market. In some cases, school gardens were used as punishment for wrong doing, instead of being living laboratories to teach students how to grow food. It’s no wonder that the budget allocations[iv] to agricultural development, education and research declined in most Africa countries in the period of 1980s to early 2000, while overall the ODA increased in real terms. We can therefore agree with Prof. Maathai that indeed we have a challenge:
"…Disempowerment- whether through a lack of self-confidence, apathy, fear, or an inability to take charge of one’s own life- is perhaps the most unrecognized problem in Africa today. To the disempowered, it seems much easier, or even more acceptable to leave one’s life in the hands of third parties…” Wangari Maathai, 2009:199 The Challenge for Africa.
Education then, is certainly not the liberation[v] or empowerment that we always envision in our normative understanding of development. But we should not underestimate its ability to re-orient this power and liberations in different contexts. We should, therefore, question the nature and form of empowerment and liberations that education provides to learners. We have to concern ourselves with the quality and delivery of pedagogy to meet the needs of a transforming continent. The kind of education needed for a revolutionizing continent should be dynamic enough to accommodate the needs for sovereignty, improved livelihoods, growing economies and even more, democratic states. We thus need to move to new frontiers in education.
If rich countries stopped their military spending for 6 days, they would save $16 billion - enough to reach education for all.
Reblog if you think everybody should get to go to school!
Developing Skills for Future Green Economy Jobs
There is far more opportunity than there is ability
- Thomas Edison
This veracity of this statement by one of the world’s greatest inventors, as the world is today, is very debatable because the situation suggests the statement should have been in the reverse. In another statement he said,
We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that.
This statement, made over 80 years ago, is very true today, though all the coal and oil hasn’t totally ran out but we have found that our continued dependence on them is costing us our entire world – through climate change. Hence we are now looking at other sources of energy such as the sun, wind and tide as Edison earlier advised.
The world is today faced with very worrying rise in youth unemployment, just this year Yahoo, Sony, HSBC among other global employers of labour announced thousands of job cuts, an addition to the already grim situation. The International Labour Organization (ILO) reported just recently that there will be over 11 million global job losses by the end of 2013. A very serious one, we all hear about the cuts but no news on how to create future jobs that will absorb the growing youth population to avoid a catastrophe.
We all as youths, policy makers, government, businesses – profit and non-profit, development organizations must at this time look into the future to develop strategies, policies – (development, educational and training) that will equip today’s and future youths with the skills for the challenges of the next phase of job opportunities that future green economies will provide which will be very much dependent on the sun, wind, tide and all the rest renewable energy resources that Edison was making reference to. Its implementation should also be pursued with all commitment and resources that it deserves.
As the world meets later next month at the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development, there should be a constant reminder that anything less of its outcome will not be sustainable but will also be a failure on our part to make use of such a great gathering worthwhile as the 2 conference themes: ‘a green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication’ and ‘the institutional framework of sustainable development’ highlights.
That way we would also avoid the situation where ‘there is far more opportunity than there is ability’ as Edison predicted. I know we can do it, it’s up to us.
Education: Whose Responsibility?
I once attended a workshop two years ago on education advocacy and budget tracking and one of the things that fascinated me at this workshop was a scenario we had. Participants were asked, “the declining state of our education system, who is to blame? Is it the government or the teachers or the communities or the parents or the learners/students?” Each participant was asked to stand by the side of which stakeholder they felt had more of the blame. It was interesting to see that different participants stood by each of these stakeholders with a very strong argument for their choice and decision.
For example: those that stood by every other stakeholder, except by the government felt that there were situations where government provided and there were no commitments by the communities, teachers, parents and the learners thus, the lack of maintenance of some of the educational facilities as well as poor performances in-school by the learners. On the other hand, some of the participants blamed it on the teachers saying ’some teachers are not committed, they hardly teach in the classrooms, they only give the children notes to write’ etc. Another set of the participants blamed it on the students. They felt that these days, the students do not read anymore and that they are carried away by activities like the social media (e.g. ‘facebooking’) and other ‘contemporary distractions’.
For about four years now, I have read at different times, the declining and very poor performances of students in W.A.S.C (West African Senior Certificate) and NECO exams. This has got me pondering why this is so. I am aware of the problem of our education system however, I have wondered if the learners/students do have or take some form of responsibility for their performances? Looking back at that workshop I attended, I will definitely agree that the learners/students also have responsibilities towards their success.
While we advocate for better government policies and budgeting towards improving the education standards, improved community engagement and ownership, quality teachers and improved teaching using child-centred methodologies, I would be thinking the learners will also put in more efforts to achieve success. Discipline will be the watch word to ensure that what belongs to Caesar is given to Caesar that is, the time for studies should remain for studies.
Ultimately, the sustainability of our education system is a collective responsibility with every stakeholder having a role to play at different times and as the case maybe.
This article was originally posted on Chinwe Oguamanam’s blog Development Synergy.
The Attitude and Experience of the ‘experienced’ Unemployed Youth
Young people generally are very enthused about life and what its various stages offers, best of which is the freedom to lead their own lives but without the power the decide the outcome of decisions taken. Some of these outcomes are undesirables of gainful poverty, unemployment or lack of one at all.
We have most of the time neglected to prepare ourselves - minds and spirit for the realities that we must face in this stage of our life which will mar or make us at the end. These preparations start from the family where children are trained and influenced by either literate-illiterate, rich-middle class-poor parents, faith systems, environment, level and quality of education, training received, peers and more. Among all these factors of influence, education, training, skills, and experience - (opportunities) has the highest impact on a young person’s life to adulthood. Most times we fail to acknowledge the need to get ourselves readily prepared for this future in discovering the purpose of education, and what benefit it would serve to us and our communities, this is where attitude / character, values comes in - the differentiating factor between the successful and seemed failures. While in the university and upon graduation from the University if he has to opportunity of attending one, an average young person is faced with the experience of unemploymentduring which he is involved in certain activities in which he is gains useful experience but largely denies this because of lack of purpose, focus, vision of what life should be for him/her. These activities often are training grounds to acquire skills, knowledge and experience that the young person should use to change his situation and lead a successful life but quite often he fails to.
As a young man that had desire to lead my own life and be responsible for its outcomes, I before graduation from high school told myself this is how my life would be structured; no matter the outcome of factors that were not in my direct control. Upon graduation from high school, I had some challenges - an outcome of the poor education system, yet I didn’t lose focus. I strived. I gained admission and having structured, understood my environment and knowing what the system I was in wouldn’t offer me, I made it a priority to get a job placements during vacations to acquire skills and experience that I need for my future - this was what my peers didn’t see as a need at the time. This I did throughout my university education, often going without food, denying myself of some needs and luxury to save up to buy books, attend trainings, conferences, and to work at times where I gain skills and experience as an unemployed youthknowing that one day I will be employed. This is my approach till date.
Give us access to the education we want. Stop empowering professors, empower students!