Never before in the history of humankind has the world seen a vibrant youth population with such energy and enthusiasm for tackling local and global challenges. Within the current global development agenda, youth actors are working to ensure that all children and youth have access to a high-quality education that prepares them to lead healthy and productive lives and contribute to their communities and countries.
With every opportunity and every platform presented, young people are standing tall, airing their opinions, making their voices heard and playing significant roles in shaping and influencing education policies.
My journey as a quality education advocate
Indeed, the role of young people in ensuring equal and quality educational opportunities for all around the world cannot be overemphasized. As a young person born and raised in a typical rural community in Nigeria with limited learning opportunities, I had first-hand experiences of educational inequalities and this shaped my academic interests and professional engagements over the last four years.
Knowing well the significance of quality education, especially for disadvantaged children from low-income families and communities, I decided to challenge the status quo. I navigated through my primary and secondary education with the support of my family and teachers who saw potential in me and, with several scholarships, I was also able to complete my university education.
So, when I graduated from Ladoke Akintola University Oyo Nigeria with a degree in Biochemistry in 2014, I returned to my hometown and set up a non-profit organization called Aid for Rural Education Access Initiative (AREAi).
The aim of AREAi is to provide technical, educational and infrastructural support to ensure that youth are equipped with the education they need to acquire the skills and knowledge necessary to contribute to the socioeconomic development of Nigeria and the global community.
Helping children with limited resources to get a quality education
By organizing and mobilizing material, physical and financial resources, we focus on improving learning outcomes for disadvantaged children in under-resources schools and marginalized communities.
We collaborated with community heads and school administrators to identify needs with their community schools and then organize meetings with potential sponsors to provide solutions to the identified needs.
Through outreach, we mobilized enough support to build libraries, classrooms and sanitary facilities, provide tables and chairs in classrooms, and conduct after-school mentoring sessions and supplementary learning classes for students in those schools.
We also provide economic empowerment classes for students’ mothers to cover some hidden costs that prevent many children from attending school.
These efforts have enabled several host schools to improve on their general school performance in standardized tests at the external examination levels, with some achieving a 47% success rate increase compared to 12% in under one year.
Beyond this work, I have also, in various capacities, contributed to the design and implementation of several social innovation projects on education. In 2017 for example, I served as a Communication and Marketing Associate for Teach for Nigeria, a network partner of Teach for All, which is a global network of NGOs working to address educational inequities across the world.
Engagement with world leaders
My story of struggles and triumphs as a youth leader and education advocate reinforces my belief in what young people like myself are capable of achieving with our resilience, passion and energy, to ensure that every child, regardless of who or where, has access to an excellent education.
With the practical experience I had volunteering as a mobilizer or campaigner for education, I broadened my leadership skills and professional competencies in terms of organizational management, grassroots organizing, advocacy, networking and communications, all of which have been crucial in amplifying the lasting impact my team and I are creating in marginalized communities of Nigeria.
However, my interests and work in promoting access to quality education transcend beyond grassroots organizing and resource mobilization. I have leveraged several other platforms to advocate for better education services and have become renowned both locally and globally for championing online and offline campaigns around themes of educational development such as education finance and inclusive education.
Based on my expertise, I have been privileged to speak or contribute to several high-level consultations such as the 2018 Education World Forum in London and the World Youth Forum in Sharm El Skeih Egypt, in 2017.
All of these opportunities are experiences I am forever grateful for, most importantly because they gave me the avenue to advocate and campaign for the cause that is close to my heart: EDUCATION. I am happy to serve my generation, using whatever resources at my disposal to make change happen for education, both locally and globally.
Youth power and the way forward
The daunting task of ensuring equitable and quality educational opportunities for all globally is a great responsibility on everyone – academia to civil society organizations, policy makers, legislators, and most importantly, young people.
National governments must embrace responsibly their constitutional obligation to build strong education systems that provide quality basic education for children across different educational levels.
Citizens must stay engaged and hold governments accountable. But most importantly, young people must, and will, play a huge role in ensuring that tangible efforts are concertedly channeled through NGOs, sustainable businesses, social enterprises and more platforms to deliver quality education for all to build a safe, secure and prosperous future for the next generation.
With youth, we are one step closer to achieving quality education for all.