Last month, I participated as a GPE youth advocate in the Pan-African High-Level Conference on Education (PACE) organized by the African Union, UNESCO and the Government of Kenya. The meeting aimed to take stock and assess progress in aligning national plans, policies and systems, including management and monitoring mechanisms to SDG 4-Education 2030 and the African Union’s Continental Education Strategy for Africa (CESA 2016-2025).
Two days prior to PACE 2018, Plan International, in collaboration with the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), USAID and UNESCO hosted young people from across the African continent at a Youth Dialogue on Education (#YDE).
Youth form their recommendations to Ministers
The Youth Dialogue was organized to ensure the voice of youth was integrated into the deliberations at PACE and discussions on the continent’s education agenda as well as the Ministerial Outcome document.
It provided a platform for us as young people to share our experiences on education and our advocacy in different national contexts; to integrate into the global and African education agenda ideas and innovations by young people; and to make recommendations for broad engagement of young people in education reforms and research in Africa.
We were more than 40 young people from Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Mali, Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal, Niger and Burkina Faso.
We focused on inclusive education, gender equality and gender-responsive education; education financing; youth inclusion in sector reform and dialogue; integrating education in conflict and post conflict situations, including education of refugee children and youth; leveraging technology and strengthening education information systems.
Panel sessions and small group discussions promoted meaningful dialogue between youth delegates and education policy makers at national and continental levels. As young people who are beneficiaries of education sector reforms, we emphasized the need for our systematic engagement in reform processes.
Youth demand inclusion in policy reform processes
We took hold of the power we already have as partners in education to demand our rightful seats in education accountability and decision-making spaces, especially in our respective countries.
In explaining what GPE is and does, Victoria Egbetayo of the GPE Secretariat highlighted the significant contribution, meaningful engagement and provocative role young people had in the lead up to and at the GPE Financing Conference in Dakar. She noted that the youth statement was a reminder of the pivotal role young people play in enabling education for all to become a reality.
For the Youth Dialogue, we decided to use the youth solidarity statement from Dakar as a starting base for our Youth Memorandum to PACE.
Youth message delivered to ministers
At the end of the YDE, we prepared a video and a memorandum highlighting what we believe are areas of priority for education in Africa. We noted the key role we can play in education sector planning and research in Africa. And we presented our video and memorandum to the ministers present at the Conference.
President Uhuru Kenyatta, of the Republic of Kenya, officially opened the ministerial session of PACE 2018. Throughout the event, one message remained clear: Quality education is the main driver of development on the continent and therefore it is fundamental to ensure equitable inclusive quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Africa’s youth movement - why young Africans mobilize and demand quality education
PACE played a key role in strengthening partnerships in education to accelerate the coordination, implementation and monitoring of the SDG 4 and CESA 16-25 agendas in Africa.
On the side-lines of the conference, I and 4 other young people presented what we observed to be the status of inclusivity in education and gender equality in Africa in a TED-style event organized by FAWE.
While I spoke on education financing and investments to promote gender equality, other young people spoke on inclusive education with a special focus on young people and children with disabilities, increasing youth participation in STEM education and innovation through mentorship, education in emergencies and post-conflict situations and engaging out-of-school children.
We shared our emotional stories of education triumphs and tragedies: abuse, suicide, being a survivor of genocide, early pregnancy, and being a female in tech.
Speaking on two other panels, I drew attention to the leadership of African youth in mobilizing themselves and ensuring accountability in their own spaces through lobbying and online advocacy and social accountability initiatives among others. Also highlighted was the need for Ministries to publish annual education reports and make them publicly available so citizens, including young people, can track progress of our national education systems #MakeItPublic. And for capacity building of Ministries to know how to engage and work with young people in education policy and planning processes. As a follow up, we now need to ensure that youth voices are present in national monitoring structures on education.
Young people are ‘heard’ by ministers
Many of our recommendations made their way into the Nairobi Declaration and Call for Action on Education ‘Bridging continental and local education frameworks for the Africa We Want’.
Our full engagement in the conference deliberation could be felt and seen in ministers’ contributions afterwards. Everyone made reference to what ‘the youth said’. We hope the ‘youth message’ continually resounds in their hearts and minds when they are back in their countries.
Post-conference actions, challenges and recommendations
For a conference primarily discussing education that benefits young people, their voice must be heard during its opening ceremony. We need to be around the table when the discussion starts and when it ends.
And while we heard from young people with disabilities, there should be more space to highlight the many and varied types of disabilities.
We will continue our advocacy and in the interest of mutual accountability have started to disseminate the youth memorandum online. We will work to ensure our in-country activities lead to a world where all children and young people no matter their gender, status or color have access to quality education.
I have established country networks and will be following up with Plan Ghana on the possibility of directly engaging on the country’s education sector planning team.