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.
Freedom to Decide One’s Life Path
Trust Youth for (a) Change
According to The Mo Ibrahim Foundation report titled African Youth: Fulfilling the Potential, the continental average age is 20 years old, but the average age of our African leaders is 62. Africa’s tradition of rule by the elders – some of whom, unfortunately, assert a right to govern in perpetuity presents a challenge for youth to influence their country’s leadership in some states. This disconnect due to a variety of cultural, religious and traditional beliefs, between us and our elders, hampers and makes it difficult to solve our issues together. Maybe, we are ‘threatening’ and our elders do not want our questions. How can we approach our leaders in a way that is non-threatening and amicable? One of the ways to do this, which Youth are increasingly recognising, is through meaningful intergenerational dialogue.
As a youth, I have started to question whether our leaders are listening to and including youth in policy decisions. No, I am not denying that we aren’t being consulted; instead what I experience is a once a year youth month celebration which serves as platform for input from youth, and then it is business as usual. This is not necessarily best practice inclusive decision-making. Youth groups are fragmented amongst the bigger structures of leadership and we exist as sub groups from exactly those structures that make resolutions for us. We are disjointed in almost every platform where decisions are made. How possible is it for us to push integration of youth and inclusive participation? We cannot always exist as just networks of youths or young individuals. How about a Youth Affirmative Action Policy? Is that idea too radical as well? We don’t want to be included because of our category, but because we have valuable knowledge and innovative ideas needed to bring about change.
The ideas and models that are being used for youth development are still the same as in the past, yet our priorities have shifted in many ways. Our leaders are doing the same things repeatedly, expecting different outcomes. There are examples of programmes such as Activate! Leadership and Public Innovation that capacitates youth at a local level then connect them together to reach a critical mass of action that can positively develop and drive innovation at a country level. Making us as youth relative to the conversations and structures and to push for reforms using innovative ideas and providing new approaches to the same old problems our leaders are trying to fix.
In South Africa, discourse on youth is increasingly negative. We are referred to as a ticking-time bomb. We are often told that we are disengaged. Headlines in some media describe our aggressiveness and frustration. While we are being described in our deficit over and over, there are actually youths in our communities trying their level best at changing their circumstances for themselves and those in their communities. Let us look at CNN heroes’ nominee Thulani Madondo, and many other youths like him across the continent. We have an abundance of success stories to celebrate. Our perception of ourselves and the positive change we can contribute are extremely positive. These success stories are indications that youth are ready to meaningfully participate when it comes to solving the issues that affect us the most. Is it not also an indication that Africa does have dynamic and powerful youths who can navigate through structures of power with the valuable new knowledge we have? Youth have been so instrumental in change and used social media as a tool to achieve social justice. Many examples from Tunisia’s Virtual Voices, Twestival and the Arab Spring are some of them.
There are important leaders from our past including Ashley Kriel and the youth of 1976, and we acknowledge them, but this is the youth of NOW. The awareness of struggle heroes as champions of change and the previous generation of youth who had the ability to defy large structures are still romanticised, as much as we envisage our contribution that we are about to make. We are bound to do things differently even if we consciously remember those from our histories; we seek new ways at solving our problems. We are reinventing ourselves and defining our own vision. We can learn from the past, we can learn from the previous generation, but not everything.
My proposed solution is that succession planning is made for younger leadership and that more spaces or enabling environments are created for intergenerational dialogue where youth can participate in decision-making processes. More importantly, that our leaders, governments, business, communities, trust us. Otherwise, we will never ever convince ourselves of the value we are to this continent.
Trust us for a change.
Africa’s most prized assets, Youth.
The Cycle of Green Economy
When I first read about Green Economy, I became angry, sad and glad. I know these are mixed feelings, but that was how I felt. I imagined the extent to which the developed world is advancing. The economy the developing world is still talking about is the economy of bread and butter and the establishment of basic infrastructure. Nevertheless, I am fascinated by Green Economy because it will have an immense and profound impact in a developing country like my country Sierra Leone.
There are a lot sectors in which Green Economy will be brought into play. The energy sector in developing countries is largely untapped. The provision of electricity by government is far from adequate let alone the provision of power from the wind, the sun and natural gas. But what will have an instant investment success is recycling.
There are a lot of recyclable items in my country that go to waste. Recyclable items like metal, paper, plastic and glass are under-utilised.
A lot of trees will be saved if waste paper is recycled. Paper and paper products like card-boards, cartons and paper boxes constitute about three-fourths of the garbage content in the developing world. An investment project to collect such paper and paper products and a recycling plant to make recycled paper will be an instant hit. This investment will not only be economically viable, it will also reduce the litter in the streets, and in our neighbourhood, not to take about the reduced use of tree plants to manufacture paper
Metals that are discarded are also an unnecessary clutter in the environment. The business of scrap metals is already flourishing one. But there are a lot scrap metals that can still be collected and put to good use after recycling. Attention is only paid to big, heavy and bulky metals from times, nails and other articles and trinkets are overlooked. Collecting these metals, for recycling will be a good investment and will reduce the reliability on the extraction of ones to manufacture metals. Why should we away when such metals can be recycled?
Plastics, like paper, are other recyclable items of recyclable plastic are disposed of as garbage. A plastic recycling plant will address the waste plastic problem. The same applies to glass products. A lot of empty bottles are discarded as refuse in the environment. Recycling such glass products is a viable business.
Recycling these products will not only enhance Green Economy, but will also help cleanse our environment of garbage and filth and cut down on the pollution of streams, rivers, oceans and our planet. Recycling is one way youths will be involved in job creation.
Les enfants de la République démocratique du Congo étudiant en plein air à l’Est fuyant la guerre et sont sans soutien.
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.
Choice in Education
I go to an early/middle college program here in Michigan and the number one thing I’ve learned so far is the importance of choice, and the ability to pursue my own interests. I love social studies, and in early college I have the opportunity to take classes like introductory anthropology and African-American literature, where I’m genuinely interested in the subject matter and am learning more about what I want to do for a career. I think there should be away for all teenagers to explore their interests this way. If they know they want to be a politician, or a lawyer, or a cheesemonger, why spend eight hours a day, five days a week in classes which aren’t always tailored to what you want to do with your life? If you’re not going to be a chemist, why not only go to Chemistry three days a week, and spend the other two volunteering at the soup kitchen, because you want to operate your own nonprofit one day? I fully support well-rounded, liberal arts education, but I think that in a changing world, where more and more careers are invented by the people working in them, and more and more people are choosing jobs that are primarily freelance, students should get a jump as early as possible on preparing themselves for the careers they want to have, and developing skills that will serve them in the working world.
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.
International Youth Day 2012 and UN Google+ Hangout
On 8, 9 and 10 August, the United Nations is hosting 6 Google+ Hangouts to celebrate International Youth Day 2012. The Hangouts will discuss good practices for partnering with and for youth under the areas of : Political Inclusion, Citizenship and Protection of Rights, Employment, Entrepreneurship, Education and Education on Sexual and Reproductive health!
Ask your questions on the United Nations International Year of youth Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/UNyouthyear) or on twitter with #IYD2012. Learn how you can engage and contribute, by visiting: http://bit.ly/JN4r6E
PS : Please, join me on 9 of August at 11 AM EST to discuss employment with the others participants.
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.
Tackling the challenges of funding Higher Education and eradicating acute student poverty
By Jennifer Ehidiamen
No students’ loan. No students’ loan in this part of the world where I grew up. If you want a good education, then you must be ready to pay for it. I’m oblivious of any existing government loans. Okay, they award scholarship, it trickles down to the bottom of the pyramid. Only a handful of people get those. That does not eliminate the fact that funding is still a big issue where qualitative education is concern.
I almost jumped out of my seat when I first read Ayodeji Abiola’s articles about how to get the big money into Higher Education System in Nigeria (applicable to the rest of Africa as well). In series, the writer shed interesting light on the challenges of funding high ed, how it affects the quality of graduates churned out into the labour force and of course suggested ways to tackle the challenge by encouraging government-private partnership in getting the big money into higher education. He also added the need for students not to seat on their hands and wait for the big money from private sector. As a matter of fact, we can all work while we study, or can we not? That is the first step in eradicating acute student poverty while sharpening the entrepreneurial/work-experience. It is a win-win.
Here are my favourite quotes from Ayodeji’s articles:
Who should pay for higher education?
“Presently, post-secondary education has become elusive to many citizens for various reasons. These reasons usually include cost and inadequate spaces at the schools. ”
"…if quality education is important for quality job performance and by extension the economy; if majority of students in our higher educational institutions are largely unable to access quality education; if this lack of quality is partly but significantlyhinged on poor funding occasioned by low earning by the public institutions, perhaps employers, particularly the ones with deep pockets who are major beneficiaries of education should consider paying for higher education.”
Ways that employers (organizations, corporations, etc) should pay for higher education in Nigeria:
All over the world, including developed nations, corporate organizations fund and support education through investments in educational research that benefits their operations. In the case of Nigeria, most multinationals, operating in the country do little of these within Nigeria. Rather, they expend the bulk of their research budget in institutions at their home countries, usually in North America, Europe and Asia and periodically send few of their workers who require on-the-job training to those facilities for training and research. Science and Technology education in Nigeria will benefit immensely if these facilities were to be sited in Nigeria. Rather than an exodus of Nigerian students, foreign students may find Nigeria’s institutions attractive for their studies. The economic growth of any nation including Nigeria is tied to the quality of her workforce.
"The creation of sustainable student jobs on campus should be a major concern for advocacy by student unions, parent associations, academic staff unions and other educational stakeholders. This is because it will not only help reduce students’ poverty; it is also a great way to foster students’ personal and professional development. Students who are able to work and earn on campus while studying will also develop time management capacities, budgetary skills in addition to the job-specific skills. In fact, on graduation, such students would have built enviable Curriculum Vitae that prospective employers will cherish. This is also a great way to create entrepreneurs out of fresh school graduates rather than 100% job seekers. Institutions of higher learning are one of the great places to build and nurture entrepreneurship…"
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.