August 12, marks International Youth Day, and the theme for this year is ‘making education more relevant, equitable and inclusive’, is particularly apt for Africa. Consider this. Every 24 hours around 35,000 African youth are looking for work.
The youth make up 37% of the working-age population in Africa, but 60% of the unemployed. Though Africa continues to post impressive gains in education enrolment rates, challenges of access, quality and relevance of education in the continent remain formidable.
The region has the highest number of out-of-school children; four in ten learners score poorly in literacy and numeracy; and the systems are producing many graduates whose skills do not meet the workforce requirements. Estimates indicate that a dollar invested in an additional year of schooling, particularly for girls, generates earnings and health benefits of $10 in low-income countries and nearly $4 in lower-middle income countries.
By 2050, Africa will be home to about 830 million young people, meaning that at current trends, the challenge will only become tougher.
In Kenya, President Uhuru Kenyatta pushed for education reforms to prepare the youth for a new era. The National Policy on Curriculum Reforms, whose vision is “nurturing every learner’s potential” is anchored on the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which includes education aspirations to catalyze an education and skills revolution with a greater role assigned to the Private Sector.
Clearly, the road towards achieving SDG 4 – to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all – requires bold and innovative action. This is why education must be at the heart of private sector engagement in the journey towards the SDGs.
It is also in line with the UN Secretary-General, Mr Antonio Guterres’s call for the reformed UN to make a “strategic pivot from ad-hoc, transactional partnerships to longer-term, ‘transformational’ partnerships designed for scale”. This will involve collaboration between the UN Global Compact and UN country teams to better mobilize local business communities.
To prepare Kenya’s young people to face the challenges of a rapidly changing world and to build on existing national leadership on young people, the country has joined Generation Unlimited as one of its key partners. President Uhuru Kenyatta, a global champion of Generation Unlimited, has established a high-level steering committee co-chaired by the Government and the UN to guide the implementation of Generation Unlimited in the country, as well concrete steps to attract public and private partnerships in support of its goals.
To set the Youth Agenda on a transformative trajectory, the Government approved and is set to roll out the Kenya Youth Development Policy (KYDP) (2019). This Policy is an expression of the collective commitment of concerned stakeholders to harness and optimize the strengths and opportunities that the youth present while addressing the personal and structural barriers that affect their productivity
More significantly, the policy is an outcome of a broad based consultative process that is designed to robustly address eight (8) Priority areas namely: realize a healthy and productive youth population; build qualified and competent youth workforce for sustained social economic development (farming, manufacturing); create opportunities for youth to earn decent and sustainable livelihood; develop youth talent, creativity and innovation for wealth creation; nurture value, moral, ethical generation of patriotic youth for transformative leadership; effective civic participation and representation among the youth; promote a crime free, secure, peaceful and united Kenya where no young Kenyan is left behind; and support youth engagement in environmental management for sustainable development.
This has been successfully done by the setting up of safe spaces for youth through the establishment of the 152 Youth Empowerment Centers (YECs) across the country as One Stop Shop for the youth services. They feature myriad of services to the youth such as a counselling center, an ICT Hub, indoor recreation facilities, affirmative fund desks/focal points, and outdoor game facilities. The Government’s efforts have been fully complemented by both the County Governments, the Private Sector and UN Agencies by adoption and enhancing the variety of services offered in the YECs.
The YECs provide youth friendly services intended to address their physical, psychological and socio-economic needs.
The One Stop Youth Center concept, which is a product of partnerships between the UN and the Government, utilizes an integrated approach to youth development by providing youth with safe spaces in urban settings where they can meet and access information and resources critical to youth-led development including peace building, research and policy development. The model is in line with the Kenya Vision 2030 blue-print and the Big4 agenda which emphasizes on opportunity creation.
The UN in Kenya is scaling up its partnership with the Government in efforts to reform education, as reflected under the UN Development Assistance Framework’s, Pillar 2- Human Capital Development. The outcome is to ensure the continent’s education systems for future economic, technological and demographic trends.
Dr Francis O.Owino, PhD is the, Principal Secretary, Public Service and Youth. Siddharth Chatterjee is the United Nations Resident Coordinator to Kenya.