All African children deserve to learn and thrive

As we get ready to celebrate the Day of the African Child, GPE youth leaders Farida and Massah tell us why education is crucial to achieving a better future for the continent, to promote equality and opportunities for children and youth.

June 14, 2024 by GPE Secretariat
4 minutes read
Students show their new school supplies received under the GPE-funded program. Banamba, Mali
Students show their new school supplies received under the GPE-funded program. Banamba, Mali
Credit: GPE/Infinitee!

In a world where every child deserves the opportunity to thrive, the Day of the African Child stands as a poignant reminder of the challenges and aspirations of the continent's youngest citizens and a call to action to make children's rights a reality across Africa.

It is a day to reflect on progress made, acknowledge persisting challenges and renew our commitment to ensuring a brighter future for every African child.

In this blog post, GPE youth leaders Farida from Kenya and Massah from Sierra Leone share their reflections, linking to the goals of the African Union’s Year of Education and emphasizing the importance of education to realize the potential of Africa’s children and youth.

Farida (Kenya)

Farida, GPE youth leader

Growing up in the small village of Shanzu in Kenya, I often heard the words, "Many people have gone to school. You’re not different. You're a girl. You'll still end up being married.”

At 13, these words were meant to tell me my education was worthless. That even if I were able to attend school, it wouldn’t mean much to change my future: becoming someone’s wife. Instead, these words fueled my passion to pursue education relentlessly.

I also had the strong support of my mother, whose encouragement stems from her own experience of being uneducated and want for me to have a better future. She struggled to raise enough funds for my school fees, going from knocking on politicians' doors to doing odd jobs, all to ensure I had opportunities she never had, through access to education!

She believes deeply in the power of education and empowerment to change lives and communities, and I have also been empowered to impact my community, contribute to policy development and boldly question violations of girls' and women's rights as a result.

Thanks to my education in primary and secondary, I am now pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Development Studies. Today, I'm an education activist and founder of Elimu Care, fighting for the access and inclusion of girls in education.

The struggles I faced are shared by over 18 million girls in Africa who are missing school. The AU Year of Education, with its theme of building inclusive learning, compels action. Africa's job market demands digital skills and 230 million jobs will require them by 2030. Young people, especially girls, need these skills to thrive.

Despite progress, girls are still left behind. Data from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics shows that 9 million girls will never attend school, compared to 6 million boys.

The AU Year of Education is crucial to addressing this disparity, as educating girls empowers them and unlocks Africa's potential.

The AU's strategic agenda emphasizes the need for coordinated action with ministers of finance and heads of state to address tax, debt and austerity policies that shape the overall size of budgets to improve education access and quality. Significant breakthroughs in these areas will immensely benefit education. 

TaxEd reports that sealing tax loopholes could raise $146 billion annually, enough to cover costs for 25 million primary school children.

I see the AU Year of Education as a beacon of hope. It represents a commitment to transforming the educational landscape in Africa, ensuring that every child, especially girls, can learn and thrive.

Massah (Sierra Leone)

Massah, GPE youth leader

With an emphasis on outputs and resource quantity, education has increasingly come to mean the presence of cement buildings, tables and chairs. It prioritizes numbers—how many people are in school, how many have graduated, how many schools have been built...

In lower-income countries, this is more striking, where most of our education is still rooted in colonial and capitalist knowledge. An education devoid of authenticity and creativity is simply a form of training, not an opportunity to learn that is for the people. 

Such a system of education has failed many and continues to do so. For a long time, education in African countries like mine hasn’t emphasized the type or quality of learning taking place in the classroom, just what’s visible externally—whether that’s the physical structure of schools or the numbers that are supposed to measure educational progress.

In Sierra Leone, more people are graduating high school and university while unemployment is still ever-increasing. This phenomenon extends to other African countries as noted by the NY Times: “Young Africans are better educated. [...] Up to one million Africans enter the labor market every month, but fewer than one in four get a formal job, the World Bank says.”

A continent with 60% of its population under 25 years should prioritize and rethink its education strategy: from one that focuses solely on building schools and encouraging attendance to one that centers on fostering problem-solving and innovation in its students. To one that promotes a decolonized education that teaches youth our history and prepares us for the future. That upholds care for the planet, equality, community development and digital solutions.

We're on the right track, acknowledging the importance of education and dedicating a year—the AU Year of Education—to see how far we've come and to make plans to achieve the future we want. More lives are made better and societies enriched when our education is rooted in learning and the experiences of those in the classroom.


As we commemorate the Day of the African Child, let us reaffirm our dedication to building a continent where every child's rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. 

Let us advocate for inclusive and equitable education systems that provide supportive environments for nurturing the talents and potential of Africa's youth. Together, we can make this future a reality.

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