Education is the key to the future: You’ve heard it a million times, and it’s not wrong. Educated people have higher wages and lower unemployment rates, and better-educated countries grow faster and innovate more than other countries. But going to college is not enough. You also have to study the right subjects – Alex Tabarrok.
Every time I listen to the statistics on population growth in Africa, I am amazed and angry simultaneously at the situation that is fast creeping upon us. Our population is slated to double in the next 20 to 25 years. This means that there will be more people on every street, corner and neighbourhood. They will be competing for the limited resources we already have and the situation isn’t pretty even now.
One of the critical issues that will be unavoidable is unemployment. It is already a major failure and we are yet to address creating conditions to change this situation. We still work through the framework of formal education and formal employment, while majority of our youth are employed informally.
Right now informal employment has grown to become the Chinese Bamboo plant that takes a long time to grow but dwarves everything to become greater than the other trees. It requires a lot of nurturing and watering to break out of the seed first. It needed a lot of building up, which is what a holistic education needs to do. Education should be the nurturing that offers opportunities to lots of people and provides the tools to help our children live economically prosperous lives. As Africa’s youth engage new technology like social media, they need knowledge and skills taking them farther than my generation. Hence, just as birds will continue to look for trees to build their nest, there will always be work to be done to help them.
We ought to be boosting our informal employment structure and streamlining our educational system to encapsulate and propagate prevailing skills. Already our young people trade on the streets of Abidjan, Accra, Addis Ababa, Cairo, Johannesburg, Lagos, and Nairobi, to name a few cities. They use a lot of key skills when working the streets – those of marketing, accounting, and negotiation. Let’s re-think our approach to education to utilise their skills. They have what it takes to become entrepreneurial success stories that could be studied in our schools and universities. Creating that narrative will celebrate their abilities to persevere regardless of circumstances and encourage others to follow suit.
When I was younger I didn’t realise how valuable the skills that these young traders had until I intermingled with some pharmaceutical sales reps in the North-East region of the United States. The courses they made them undertake were centred around the skills that the young traders had acquired on the streets – marketing, accounting and negotiation. I realised that they were experts that the reps could learn from as they created opportunities in places where there were none at times. They learnt how to engage virtual strangers in conversation all to make a sale. A lot of them didn’t have formal education, as they weren’t privileged, yet the skills they had translated to usuable ones.
To be like the Chinese Bamboo plant, our learning institutions must become adaptable and flexible for youth in the informal education system. To incorporate the creative thinking, problem solving, grit and business acumen of youth to equip them to be future ready. To take advantage of what is already available by what they do. We ignore their achievements because it doesn’t subscribe to the mold that we have for successful entrepreneurs, especially those in technology.
To enable the Chinese bamboo tree shoot out of it’s hard seed; our education requires empathy, inquisitiveness, persistence, toughness and mediation. Our children’s minds must have these qualities to be future ready.
Moving forward, we should realize that the jobs of the future spring up from the jobs of today. With this in mind, a holistic education demands a reason: jobs. Future readiness is centered around this.
Adetola Salau; Educator / Speaker / Author/ Social Entrepreneur / Innovator
She is an Advocate of STEM Education and is Passionate about Education reform. She is an innovative thinker and strives for our society & continent as a whole to reclaim it’s greatness. She runs an educational foundation with the mission to transform education.