Afripen (Inspiration Stage): YALI Experience Part 1

At the YALI corridors, and sideline meetings, one thing truly stood out in the field of education. Many a young people in Africa are so passionate about improving and changing the current situation. Some are working with kids in a rural setting to make them access educational opportunities. Others like Catherine Kimambo of Tanzania are introducing African arts into the system to create values – based education system in Africa.

Some more want to encourage a reading culture through a book club, reading competition, institutionalized reading culture etc. Laura, a young Kenyan woman aspires to establish a reading club in the Coastal town of Mombasa to motivate women, young girls to become leaders and knowledgeable workers in their fields. Sofia from Ethiopia dreams of taking education opportunities to her doorsteps by building a school in her home county and so forth.

During our discussion, we found out that we were doing the same thing. The only difference is that we were doing it in different locations across the Mother Continent. So we agreed that there was a need for an African Education Movement to set the clock right. As we ventured into the research, one guy really stood out in satisfying our quest for a truly African problem. Thomas Whitby is an American education expert and a blogger on matters education. He writes, “the current education system suffers from mainly 6 Ps. These are Profit, Politician, Parents, Poverty, Professional Development, and Priority.

Everywhere in Africa, money changes hand in paying for useless standardized tests that produce less to zero impact after school. Political elites draft policies that do not support education. They support their egos and selfish interests. Parents need to be educated on the current demands of education. Poverty hampers education. An angry child is a hungry child. Teachers need to be trained in modern skills. For example, technology has disrupted traditional learning. Adopt it or remain irrelevant. Then priority. How much does your government put into education?

If it’s more than 5% of your annual budget, be very proud. After these Ps, more discovery is being made, two Ps have since been added, Peer pressure and Philosophy of education. Many students drop out because of peer pressure. Africa’s education philosophy is wrong and needs a review. It’s not about going to university. You can do it too with vocational training. It’s not about learning facts. You can be successful learning values too.

Then, the SMALL IDEA that will produce the BIGGEST IMPACT, Afripen emerged. It stands for Africa Positive Education Network. It is going to be a huge continental network that attempts to solve some of the biggest challenges facing Africa’s education today. This discovery was informed by experience, and passion to act. The current education statistics in Africa is disturbingly shocking. Even non-Africans feel ashamed. Just read below a little longer.

“One in four young people are unable to read in sub-Saharan Africa and 33 million children are out of primary school, more than half of all those in the world, according to the United Nations.” The results of this statistics? Unemployment, increased poverty, youth radicalization, etc. Africa is a continent of young people. World Bank data (2015) shows that more than half of the population in Africa is below the age of 36. If this population is not given the opportunity of education, we are likely to face one of the most shocking demographic crises by 2040.

So what we can do to make use of this youthful demographic dividend? We need to act. For example, if the issue of youth unemployment is an African problem, why not include entrepreneurship in our universities’ curricula as a mandatory subject so that our youth become creators rather than seekers? Poverty? Why not rally the policymakers to provide an environment where everyone succeeds on equal footing. Lack of confidence in Africa, why not teach education of values, of personal discovery etc.

Afripen is the first-ever youth education revolution on the continent. It hopes to scale down our obstacles to growth to zero or minimal percent in 30 years. With youths as founders and policymakers, Afripen is not the usual, old-fashioned education movement. It shall be driven by youths whose passion for change is real and sometimes personal. We hope you will join the network because your contributions can make a greater impact.

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