Last week, I participated in the second Annual Youth Education and Empowerment (AYEE) Summit in Monrovia, Liberia. It was hosted by the Youth Coalition for Education in Liberia (YOCEL) and attracted 120 young people from across Africa and the Diaspora: Nigeria, Liberia, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Israel and the USA. The theme was: ‘Strengthening collaboration among youth and women for peace building and inclusiveness of electoral processes’.
The event brought together young leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators to discuss quality education, youth participation, engagement and empowerment, and the rising issues in education and youth development. With the aim to develop strategies to address challenges that people face, the event contributed to making progress on SDGs 4, 10 and 17 (quality education, reducing inequalities and partnership for the goals).
Youth know what will work for other youth
I was glad to be able to share ideas and develop joint plans with fellow young leaders. Central to the summit was the role that education investments can play in empowering young people, by giving them the knowledge and skills they need to harness a better future. It also discussed actions youth could take to encourage greater domestic investments in education from their leaders and decision-makers.
At the summit, I represented the Global Partnership for Education’s Youth Advocates Group (YAG). I spoke at the session themed “Revolutionizing Education – What impact can education have on transforming countries and economies?”. The panel also had Beyan Flomo Pewee, the Chief Conference Convenor and Executive Director of YOCEL, and Raphael Obonyo, UN-Habitat Youth Advisor. The session highlighted the importance of fixing the education system across the continent to contribute to transforming economies and societies.
African young people deserve better education
Africa has more than 40% of the world’s youth. The United Nations has noted that this generation of young people is unprecedented in the world’s history.
Education is the bedrock of society and has the potential to provide this vast number of young people the opportunity to positively construct their societies for the better. Raphael said that education is freedom; freedom to explore, create and innovate.
During the discussion, I emphasized that we can do better if we stand together as young people in demanding for our rights responsibly. Governments bear the lion’s share of responsibilities in improving the lives of its people and the state of its economy. The same applies to education.
For education to truly be effective, policies must be conducive and systems strengthened. GPE promotes systems strengthening and key in this is the provision of adequate and efficient finance to build strong and effective systems. GPE works with partner countries to develop and implement education sector policies and allocate education grants towards achieving the goals set out in the plans.
Governments must commit to increase financing for education
When the educational systems are fixed, this can lead to a transformational impact on other sectors of development in countries – agriculture, health, governance and the economy in general. Education helps us escape poverty. Education impact all the SDGs.
But for this to happen, education must be financed properly, and the major source of financing is domestic budgets and improving domestic expenditure on education.
The GPE replenishment campaign seeks to encourage developing country governments to invest more, specifically, at least 20% of their general government expenditure on education. We are asking governments to pledge that commitment at the GPE replenishment conference in early 2018.
Connecting youth with the labor market
In looking at ways to improve investments in education, a Learning Hub on Mobilizing Youth for Domestic Financing was organized by YOCEL. It took an in-depth look at the issue and what actions youth can take to encourage their governments and governments around the world to step up their investments in education. GPE supported the learning hub, with many youths engaged.
The conference also placed emphasis on the importance of private-public partnerships: these will ensure that young people interested in technical and vocational training get the skills that prepares them for the labor market.
To contribute to solving this challenge, YOCEL will soon roll out an internship program that will connect young people with organizations and institutions that need volunteers. This will provide young people with on-the-job experience, increased skills and experiences. Companies such as TOTAL Liberia are already committed to supporting this program as they have similar programs running already. Also highlighted at the summit the importance of building a generation of entrepreneurs and job creators, through formal and informal education, who would employ other young people.
Shape the future with us
Young Africans at the summit joined the #ShapeTheFuture social media campaign for the GPE replenishment. They are ready to build a regional movement to work towards achieving an increase in education financing of across the continent. Please join us!