Celebrating International Day of the African Child

By Alexander Kyerematen | June 12, 2019 | Africa & The Middle East | Education

On International Day of the African Child, GFC’s Alexander Kyerematen reflects on the innovative, local solutions that can help improve education for Africa’s growing youth population.

“To every child – I dream of a world where you can laugh, dance, sing, learn, live in peace and be happy.” – Malala Yousafzai

Africa is home to 628 million children and youth under 25 – and that figure is quickly growing. According to most estimates, the continent’s youth population will at least double within the next half century. Despite the young population, Africa still lags in most indicators, including education. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, 34 million children of primary school age are currently out of school.

This dynamic creates an urgent need for innovative, sustainable interventions that address barriers to children’s and youth’s empowerment in Africa. It’s vital that we promote their rights and secure their futures, as the continent aspires for economic and social development.

Each year on June 16, we commemorate the youth who were killed during the Soweto uprisings in South Africa in 1976, when thousands of Black students marched for their right to a fairer education. The International Day of the African Child allows us to reflect on the condition of children in Africa and to examine strategies to continue to improve their education. To mark the day this year, we share two reflections on addressing several challenges facing children across the continent.

Education cannot continue to be business as usual.

Smiling, primary-school-aged children run on a playground while their teacher watches. © Kevin Ouma

GFC alumni partner Little Rock ECD Centre runs the first inclusive early childhood education center in Nairobi’s Kibera slum for children with disabilities. © Kevin Ouma

Providing a child with high-quality education transfers knowledge, instills confidence, and breaks down barriers to opportunity for that child. It’s arguably the most empowering force in the world.

Despite several gains in education, African children and youth don’t have sufficient preparation to compete in the radically changing world they are growing up in. To address this current dynamic, education must be retrofitted to cater to the needs of the continent in today’s world.

We need to embrace new and creative approaches to education, recognizing that learning is fluid and can take place outside the physical boundaries of the classroom. Through investments in approaches such as after-school programs and peer-learning groups, or in second-chance education for girls, children and youth can develop a desire to acquire knowledge and build the tools to improve and safeguard themselves for the future.

Strategic investments to community-based organizations can move the needle further.

Youth sit at desks inside a school looking intently toward the front of the classroom. © Giovanni Okot

GFC partner RICE-WN works to transform the lives of young people – particularly girls – in rural areas of northern Uganda through educational support, counseling, leadership development, and entrepreneurial skills training. © Giovanni Okot

Often arising in direct response to needs within their localities, community-based organizations are uniquely placed to offer immediate, localized, and innovative responses to Africa’s education challenge. We need to recognize and support the incredible capacities that are already present in these community-based organizations. When we do so, we help local organizations better position themselves to work toward increasing the wellbeing of children and families.

Africa’s future success depends on its ability to enhance the skills of its growing youth population. Community-based organizations will play a critical role in ensuring that no African child is neglected – and that all children are empowered and have support to receive an education that will prepare them to be confident and meaningful participants in the world.

In this spirit, Global Fund for Children will continue to seek out opportunities to invest in community-based organizations in Africa and around the world, to help children and youth reach their full potential and advance their rights. Join us as we mark the celebration of the African child.

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Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.

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