Posted on July 12, 2019
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World Youth Skills Day is 15th July.
The 21st Century has been termed by many academics as the ‘African Century’. This is because many predict that with new technologies and socio-economic development the continent is primed to ‘explode’ as the new engine room of mankind. There is another important factor if this transformation is to take place, people! Often seen as a curse, the abundance of young, eager boys and girls on the continent is a resource of immense potential power.
From 2017 to 2050, nine countries are expected to account for half of the world’s projected population increase: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the United States, Uganda, and Indonesia. As you can see 5 are African countries. It is also predicted that by 2050; Kinshasa, Lagos and Dar es Salaam will be among the most populous 20 cities on the planet. That means about 1.3 billion young people in Africa alone.
The consequences of not investing in this youth potential are two-fold (speaking broadly). Firstly, it is a massive waste. To ignore this resource is to needlessly handicap a nation’s ability to develop. Secondly, young people without anything useful to do cause massive social problems. The violent terrorist movements that plague the world today are only possible because there is an abundance of young, disenfranchised and therefore resentful youth who find picking up a gun or blowing themselves up more appealing than to continue living. That of course is an extreme example of what happens when youths are ignored and impoverished but we see all around us how the lack of social clubs and jobs has led to a rise in violent crime across London. In the UK, knife crime figures have just reached post World War Two levels, a time when the country was economically on its knees, our young and poor are living, economically speaking in a comparable world.
There is a verse from the Bible in which Jesus is asked to describe the Kingdom of Heaven, his response is thus:
“It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches” (Luke 13:18-19)
This concept is fundamental to our outreach work at ACT and informs how we help plant seeds, which grow into mighty trees.
So how do you cultivate the potential of youth; with skills, training and education?
That is what we at ACT believe and have been working towards for two decades now. Education is at the heart of our work but not every child will go on to university, not every child thrives in an academic environment so we also offer a wide range of vocational skills training to those we support. In Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Burkina Faso, Nigeria, Malawi and Kenya (DRC hopefully soon), when we have supported a child through secondary school but perhaps they can’t or don’t want to move on to A-levels or higher education, we support them to learn and master skills such as; tailoring, plumbing and mechanics. Of course Africa needs more doctors and teachers but it also needs competent builders, garment makers and technicians capable of building the technology of the future. This is because Africa must look to the future and seize those new opportunities if it is to blossom, opportunities in green technologies and IT for instance.
Another example of how our methodology grows into something much greater is our IT project in Tanzania. 7 community secondary schools in the Tanga region of north eastern Tanzania had a problem. They wanted to teach IT but had no computers. They had been struggling with a combination of textbook learning (for the teachers) and blackboard work (for the kids). This was not working and linguistic difficulties like explaining what a ‘mouse’ is in this context, without the object in front of you, were common. So working in partnership with the Tanga City Council and VSO, ACT developed a scheme. With donated computers we set up 7 computer labs in the schools concerned with 20 computers each. Most charities would stop there but not us. We then recruited sixty short term volunteer IT experts in the UK who spent 6-8 weeks on each visit, and over 2 years provided training to 160 teachers from across the 7 schools on how to use computers and to develop a curriculum to teach that knowledge to the pupils at the school. As a result the children began to sit national IT exams but not only that, the schools began to use IT in the teaching of other subjects, like geography. They were also able to digitize their records making it easy to store and use data and share information with other schools and the government. The ‘seed’ of a computer lab ended up revolutionizing how an entire region’s education functions.
At ACT we like to think of your donations as tiny mustard seeds. So please support our work by making a donation or sponsoring a child, and let’s see how big we can grow. Donate here.