August 29, 2017

"By providing quality skill sets to African youth, we can ensure a brighter future for them and their families"

55 million out of school children live in Sub-Saharan Africa

Photo credit: Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu

Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu

Global Youth Ambassador from Cameroon

As a Global Youth Ambassador from Cameroon, Joannes Paulas Yimbesalu explains what is needed to help young people succeed in his country and across the continent.

According to the International Labor Organization (ILO), there are over 75 million young people globally aged 15 to 24 years who are looking for a job.

Despite the gains made in the last decade, progress in achieving education for all has stagnated since 2007 - with over 121 million children and adolescents today out of primary and lower secondary school globally. 

Over 50% of these out-of-school children live in countries affected by conflict and or extreme poverty. Another 55 million live in sub-Sahara Africa, where they face barriers associated with gender, poverty, displacement and disability.

These countries receive very little or no external financing to help send children to school.

With over 85% of the world’s young people living in developing countries, more than 70% of them are under 30 years making Africa the most youthful continent globally. 

Ranked in the bottom quintile among 144 economies in 2015, Cameroon needs to redefine its approach towards poverty eradication with emphasis on young people so as to promote growth and economic transformation.

In Cameroon the unemployment and the underemployment rates are 30% and 75% respectively, according to a 2013 ILO report. We have many university graduates driving cabs because they are unemployed. Many of them studied subjects that have no relevance to our current job market. 

Children are faced with barriers including gender discrimination, poverty, displacement and disabilities

Photo credit: Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu

With a population size of over 24 million, employment barriers among Cameroon’s youth include a poor and outdated educational system, skill miss-match, lack of access to capital and no business or entrepreneurial trainings.

Most young people are leaving the country for greener pastures abroad at their own risk. Others engage in crime, drugs and gambling - and there is a high rate of teenage pregnancy. 

Despite Cameroon’s government efforts to create jobs for young people through programmes such as the National Employment Fund, more still needs to be done. 

We need comprehensive programmes that provide both skills and training, mentorship programmes and financial support to help tackle the problem of youth unemployment in Cameroon and Africa 

Poor learning outcomes in primary schools result in just 28% of Africa’s youth being enrolled into secondary school, while another 90 million youths struggle to find low-paid jobs according to the Brookings Institute

In the absence of an urgent drive to raise standards, half of out-of-school children - 61 million in total - will reach adolescence lacking the basic learning skills, which they and their countries need to escape poverty. Teaching and skills training is therefore at the heart of the learning crisis and for Africa’s economic success.

We need to create more technical institutions and provide training so that young people can learn a new skill and make them marketable when they complete school.

Joannes Paulas Yimbesalu, Global Youth Ambassador from Cameroon

With the African youth population expected to grow by 42.5 million by 2020 according to the World Bank, over 470 million jobs will be needed globally in the labour force between 2016 and 2030 - hence the need for investment in key skills to drive economic growth. 

Companies are shifting towards demand for high-level skills while low and medium-skilled jobs are becoming obsolete. 

To meet these demands in the near future requires innovations within the educational system, which has become obsolete especially in developing countries.

With sub-Saharan Africa now considered the world’s fastest-growing mobile technology region, there is a huge move towards digital learning - making it possible to bring low-cost access to education and provide new learners with the skills they need to strive

There is a big education and training gap among young people between 15 and 35 in Cameroon. 

However, with 43% of the Cameroonian population having no formal or incomplete primary education and 67% of those working lacking any additional training, we need to create more technical institutions and provide training so that young people can learn a new skill and make them marketable when they complete school.

In Cameroon, most of the tertiary educational programmes are lacking non-traditional academic discipline, which is what we need to meet the demands of a changing economy. 

To address these concerns we need to engage private sector actors in adapting skills training in order to increase productive fields such as agriculture. We need to create youth employment training programmes through the support of public-private partnerships.

Investing in jobs for young people means investing in the present and future of our societies. 

With improved educational outcomes, relevant skills and competencies, and access to decent jobs, young people can help accelerate progress on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, fostering a prosperous, sustainable and equitable socio-economic environment for all.

As a Global Youth Ambassador for Theirworld and its A World at School movement, I have developed skills, which range from advocacy to public speaking. By advocacy, I mean taking action on behalf of oneself or others. 

Joannes, our GYA, working with children

Photo credit: Joannes Paulus Yimbesalu

Through my advocacy skills, I have shed light on stories of children - mostly the vulnerable and marginalised - and given them the voice to speak up and make decisions that affect their lives. 

As a GYA, we share stories, highlight challenges and make the call for education an undeniable voice on the world stage; we find ways to get things done. 

By identifying ways in which we can help more children go to school, we turn to our network to mobilise support; we engage with governments. 

We champion progress, by keeping our network informed about the good news on the ground and form a relentless campaign that will not stop until every child is in school and learning

In order to close the education gap, Africa’s higher education institutions and vocational institutions must therefore make use of performance-based financing so that universities and technical institutions can be motivated to improve the quality and relevance of their curriculums. 

By providing quality skill sets to young African youths – one that meet the needs of today's labour market, we can ensure a brighter future for them and their families while closing the poverty gap. It takes a strong political will by governments to invest in young people.

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