May 21, 2014

New Vision for Education: A personal view by Global Youth Ambassador

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

Damola Morenikeji from Nigeria is a Global Youth Ambassador for A World at School. He attended the 2014 World Economic Forum on Africa in the country's capital Abuja, where he took part in the session on New Vision for Education, which was moderated by Sarah Brown, co-founder of A World at School and Executive Chair of the Global Business Coalition for Education.

Damola, who travelled for 10 hours by road from Abeokuta to the forum, wrote a report about his experience there. Here we publish extracts from that fascinating insight.

Introduction

In my country Nigeria, there are over 10 million of the 57 million children globally missing out on basic education while the education-employment gap seems to be widening.

Nigeria has over the years recorded progress in most areas discussed at the forum. However, these progresses may be mere child's play compared with where we should be in providing qualitative education, spirited human capacity and youth development.

Why I participated

I participated at the forum as a Global Youth Ambassador for A World at School, based on a personal conviction that as a young stakeholder in the sector, it is an opportunity to share, from a youth and adept perspective, information on how we can progressively disrupt the status quo of education, especially within Africa.

New Vision for Education

The session was focused on discussing strategies to reshape education for Africa's sustainable long-term growth and competitiveness, by exploring approaches to define the education-employment gap, determine effective distribution infrastructure, deliver education through technology and fund education for growth.

"Firestarting' the conversation were John Davies, Vice President, Sales and Marketing and General Manager, World Ahead, Intel Corporation, U.S.A; Betty Enyonam, Regional Director, ThoughtWorks South Africa; and Duncan Mitchell, Senior Vice President, Emerging Theatre, Cisco, United Arab Emirates.

The "firestarters" reiterated the importance of the involvement and empowerment of teachers, claiming that while opportunity with technology is to expand our mode of access, the ability to figure out adaptability and usability of technology is key.

Vision without action?

For the vision to come into reality, continuously conscientious actions must be taken by all stakeholders – government, policy-makers, administrators, educators, investors, non-governmental organisations, young people and the general public. With reference to discussions during the session and a few personal post-session consultations, the following recommendations:

  • Continuous tabs should be kept on the quality and reach of basic education within Africa.
  • An effective relationship between education and governance should be established and strengthened, in co-ordinating activities focused on changing the status quo of education. Effective leadership is critical to the success of the vision.
  • States where the free education policy is being implemented should work on improving the quality of education provided. As experience indicates, if deliberate actions are not taken, the more students who enrol in free education programmes, the less the quality of education provided.
  • Considering the disconnect between class and workplace knowledge (and application), the quality of education provided in school should be scaled up to be in compliance with global best practices.
  • Mechanisms should be put in place to track post-enrolment activities and growth of young graduates and their relevance in the society, just as pre-enrolment records are tracked by schools.
  • Teachers should be involved and empowered to deliver qualitative teaching through a complete understanding of local context and the use of technology to enhance learning.
  • There should be a focus on personal development of each student, with emphasis on ethical reasoning, critical thinking and problem-solving skills, ethics, empathy, values and leadership.
  • Employment and entrepreneurship should also be encouraged - not only in theory but also in practice.
  • Private sector and government should be linked with the scaling up of the quality of education provided.
  • Young people should be encouraged to volunteer with non-governmental organisations to build their interpersonal relations and communication skills.
  • Non-governmental organisations should build up advocacy, mounting positive pressure to ensure qualitative education is achieved.
  • Technological innovators should look into using gaming simulation to improve the quality of learning, especially in rural environments.
  • More technology-inclined initiatives should be employed, with consideration on local context, adaptability and usability.
  • While the possibility of open-source technology for education is acknowledged, technology innovators should consider enhancing the quality of education and learning by engaging community platforms available to out-of-school children across Africa.
  • Education metrics should be proposed, set and made available for stakeholders. This will guide and help in prompt, periodic evaluation of activities/actions, towards the realisation of the metrics.
  • Right environment for growth to thrive should be provided, through good governance.
  • Stakeholders should launch initiatives that promote positive cultural mindshift in teachers and students.
  • Every school in Africa should be encouraged to link schooling/education to educative/innovative projects that involve each student.
  • More young people should be involved in decision-making processes, especially in sharing opinions that will shape their future. This helps in securing the future for all.
  • Funding for education should be increased and more mechanisms for accountability should be put in place.
  • Global education platforms should be formed or existing ones strengthened to provide resources and coiordination in improving the quality of education.

Conclusion

A few hours after the conclusion of the session on a New Vision for Education, the United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education and former UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown, in collaboration with the Nigerian business community, announced the launch of the SafeSchools Initiative.

As I sat there in the conference room at Transcorp Hilton, Abuja, looking directly into the eyes of Gordon Brown and Nduka Obaigbena (Chairman, ThisDay Media Group), I beamed with joy; the joy of the possibility of other young people learning in a secured environment, even in the northern part of Nigeria.

Considering the quality of discussions and other recommendations made at the World Economic Forum (which are not captured above), I have no doubt that with proper action, we would realise this new vision for education.

You can read more about Damola on his own blog here.

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