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Why youth education is fundamental in tackling poverty

The reality of extreme poverty in Africa is a critical challenge that needs to be addressed urgently because of its adverse implications on human well-being.

The indices of poverty include lack of adequate shelter, safe drinking water, food, and nutrition; low literacy rates; high infant and maternal mortality; high unemployment; and a feeling of vulnerability and disempowerment.

Poverty reduction can be attained by stimulating economic growth to increase incomes and expand employment opportunities for the poor. It also involves undertaking economic and institutional reforms to enhance efficiency and improve the utilisation of resources, among others.

To address the high poverty rates across Africa, experts say the continent must educate more of its youth population.

Africa’s population is projected to double by 2050 and by 2100, meaning one in three people on earth will be Africans.

Africa is the world’s second-largest and most populous continent, after Asia in both cases. At about 30.3 million km² including adjacent islands, it covers six percent of the earth’s total surface area and 20 percent of its land area. With 1.4 billion people as of 2021, it accounts for about 18 percent of the world’s human population.

This ordinarily translates the human population of Africa into positive manpower that is capable of ruling the world, and this calls for a rethink of the continent’s education system.

According to Izu Nwachukwu, a Nigerian senior lecturer at the University of Calgary in Canada, the purpose and aim of education when it was first brought to Africa in 1842 by the missionaries have since changed.

“The 21st-century education is competence-based, where students learn to master their chosen careers through learning by practice system.”

Read also: Nigeria’s youths are global asset – U.S. official

Similarly, the African Development Bank (AfDB), in its research in 2019, discovered that skill and educational mismatches are prevalent in Africa.

The research indicates that 17.5 percent of employed youth are over-skilled, and 28.9 percent are under-skilled.

It further revealed that unemployment has a scarring effect for under-skilled youth and both a scarring effect and a stepping-stone effect for over-skilled and overeducated youth.

The findings have important policy implications for how to address the persistent skill and educational mismatches among African youth.

The Montpellier Panel states in its 2014 report that based on trends, secondary education completion rates by youth aged 20 to 24 will increase from 42 percent today to 59 percent in 2030, representing about 137 million youth with secondary education and 12 million with tertiary education.

Experts in the digital education sector believe that the provision of capacity training for teachers, a digital learning policy in place, and infrastructure will help Africa mitigate learning losses occasioned by the COVID-19 pandemic or any other disruptions.

Célestin Monga and his team of researchers in 2019 opined that while African countries can tap into this demographic dividend the increasing share of better-educated youth can help the continent bridge its productivity gap.

Olayinka Bolarinwa, a social affairs analyst speaking on the imperativeness of digital literacy, aligned with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2030, said that literacy will help African youth in general and Nigerian youth in particular leapfrog beyond the digital age, have access to education, reduce unemployment, and possibly rule the world in the near future.

Experts are of the view that although many African countries have allocated considerable resources to improve education quality on average, they have devoted 0.78 percent of GDP to tertiary education, compared with 0.66 percent in other developing countries.

These countries continue to exhibit unsatisfactory educational outcomes, and their graduates often lack the appropriate skills and qualifications required by employers in many industries and sectors.

Aliko Dangote, the president of the Dangote Group, had also recently stated that the majority of those entering the workforce from Africa lack the skills required to meet the changing needs of the global economy.

“Up to 20 million increasingly well-educated young people are set to join Africa’s labour force every year for the coming three decades.

“As the World Economic Forum has argued, ensuring we have a strong ecosystem to offer quality jobs and skills to match will be imperative if we are to fully leverage this demographic dividend.

“By 2030, about a quarter of the world’s population under the age of 25 will be in or from Africa. So the economic prospects not only of Africa but of the world depend on the skills, capabilities, and productivity of our youth,” Dangote said.


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