The education and empowerment of young people are at the core of social development.
Young people not only reflect the realities of society; they also represent the future. If well nurtured, society benefits positively, but if neglected and malnourished, the consequences are always damning.
Nigeria possesses a dominate youth population which continues to propel the country’s exponential bulge projected at 400 million by 2050 – by then, Nigeria will be the third most populous country in the world.
Education, both informal and formal, is pivotal to defining the current and future stakes of the country. Since the first circle of socialization and enlightenment a child explores is the family, parents and guardians must create a solid foundation for morals and values, character and dignity, interest in learning and growing. Where the family fails, the state cannot effectively take responsibilities and vice versa.
Nigeria’s burden of 10.5 million out-of-school children needs to be addressed, effectively and sustainably, to reduce the challenge of access to education. Similarly, the crisis of quality in the education sector should also be addressed. The serenity, safety and security are imperative to productive learning and delivery.
In line with this year’s International Youth Day, there is the need to make education more relevant, equitable and inclusive for all youth. This is rooted in Goal 4 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.” Education must be tailored to reflect current and emerging realities and position young people to solve personal and communal problems effectively.
Without qualitative and relevant education, young people are unproductive, under-empowered and vulnerable to different forms of social vices and ills, including human trafficking and irregular migration.
Nigeria is currently a major source of irregular migrants who are either trapped in Libya or dead in the Sahara desert and Mediterranean sea. Many young Nigerians are stranded in different parts of Europe without basic comfort. The journey for greener pastures has led many Nigerians into bigger suffering.
Information plays a fundamental role in changing the narrative on irregular migration and helping potential migrants explore alternatives to irregular migrations or make better-informed migration decisions. To this end, all stakeholders must come on board to provide quality information on the risks and dangers of the Mediterranean journey.
Undoubtedly, these young people hold the defining power to the development and underdevelopment of Nigeria. If provided with the right human and social support, Nigeria will emerge as an unbeatable player of local and global development. However, a continuation of the status quo will earn the country an unbearable place in history and human development.
Nigeria, guardians and governments, please invest in your young minds and empower them.
— Chika Okoli is an Abuja-based media entrepreneur and social commentator.