A Message from Youth: Transforming Education! By UNESCO
My name is Victoria. I come from Nigeria and grew up Lagos State with three siblings. Ever since I remember myself in education, I felt frustrated. I had a learning difficulty and I was feeling less-than because the curriculum does not cater for children with different needs such as those who struggled with reading and comprehension, like me. This not only affected my academic success but also my self-esteem and social-emotional development. In 2013, as a student, I realized the disconnect between what was taught in the curriculum and what were the relevant skills that youth need to thrive in the society. I was bothered by the lack of effectiveness of education to prepare learners to meet the challenges of the present and maximize opportunities of the future.
This personal experience made me understand how urgent is the need to invest in quality education.To some extent, Africa has bridged the gap in free basic education but my concern is whether the education we receive is relevant enough to produce the kind of leaders, entrepreneurs, thinkers and doers needed to transform the continent, and the world. This flow of thought inspired me to start OneAfricanChild to serve the educational needs of children, particularly those in disconnected communities so they can build a better future for themselves and the society.
In our experience, an interesting way to transform education is by instilling the ideals of global citizenship education in learners through creative learning methods. It is important to meet the learners where they are and engage them in experiential activities using games, simulations, role play and storytelling, so that those who may feel excluded, feel motivated to participate in the learning process.
Beyond this, education should facilitate social interaction where learners are at the centre in designing the learning process. Education must inspire curiosity and encourage exploration in learners. Also, by teaching important values of global citizenship to learners such as empathy, resilience and diversity, it is possible to connect to the heart of learners and empower them to take responsibility as active citizens.
Since 2017, as UNESCO youth representative to the Steering Committee for Education 2030 (the coordination mechanism for the implementation of SDG4), I have had the opportunity to voice and advocate for the ideas of young people on transforming education as well as their perspectives on how Education can transform lives. Together with four other exceptional youth representatives from different regions of the world we have worked to push for meaningful youth engagement in Education, particularly in the context of the SDG4 Review this year.
Meaningful youth engagement in shaping and delivering Education is critical today. It is a make-it or break-it factor that will determine how meaningful and efficient the transformation process will be. Youth represent an important agency in shaping the future of education based on our first-hand experience Spaces and opportunities for youth engagement in transforming Education must be created and sustained at all levels – from the global level and the work around SDG4 to the regional, country and local level where, day-to-day, youth are confronting with issues of access, relevance, equity and inclusion in Education. Youth advisory groups, student councils, online youth education hubs – young people today have the capacity and the willingness to engage in many different ways. It is not enough to give them a seat at the table but to rather engage with them in a continuous and relevant manner. And, in this, it is important to consider that issues affecting young people and education are dynamic, continuously evolving and different from region to region. What is happening in Africa, my region, is different from Europe or Latin America.
We need collaboration, empathy and teamwork in order to transform education and young people play an important role in creating an agile, sustainable and lifelong education system that addresses the needs of the future. The success of every society is dependent on its ability to maintain an educated populace overtime. Therefore, we need the connection and experience of young people to recreate the educational experience to meet the demands of today and the future.
Empowering more youth to join the teaching profession will go a long way to improve quality education, promote inclusion and ensure equity in education particularly in underrepresented communities. Finally, if we are to provide a sustainable solution to education in a rapidly changing world, we need to leverage on youth-led innovations and assistive technologies that will transform the learning environment for every child.
UNESCO’s Youth Programme is working to engage youth all over the world.