Participation & Governance

Quality Education Should be at the Core of Youth Development, a perspective from Nigeria

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‘In Nigeria, poverty has a predominantly young face and young people represent a large percent of our overall population. Youths experience difficulties in entering the labour market or starting their own businesses… There is a need for Nigeria to embrace and invest in quality education’ Rebecca E Roberts, a development practitioner from Lagos makes the case for investment in education as the key to youth development.

A Nigerian Classroom via
A Nigerian Classroom via

One of the most crucial challenges presently facing Nigeria is preparing her young people for the future. In this period of global economic recession, job loss, foreclosure and fear of uncertainty puts tremendous pressure on the youths and society at large. The rate of unemployment is becoming increasingly alarming; it is assumed that 75% of Nigerian youths are not equipped to deal with the pressure that comes with recession in a global economy. This brings along other factors such as access to finance for businessstart upsalongside other factors challenging development.

More broadly, international declaration and intent, such as the United Nation’s millennium development goals (MDG) plan for the youth to the year 2015 and beyond. Several Youth forums have stressed the importance of quality education and practical strategies in process of tackling specific needs of young people to prepare them for the future. A lot of development comparison has been made between Ghana today and what Nigeria should be without paying attention to how Ghana began her process of development; it all started with educational reforms in the early 90s, and their investmentdividendsonly became visible in the last seven years.*notes to Nigeria; development is a process and quality education plays a major role*

In Nigeria, poverty has a predominantly young face and young people represent a large percent of our overall population. Youths experience difficulties in entering the labor market or starting their own businesses. Youth unemployment rate is very high; it is two to three times the adult unemployment rate; this rate is an indication of theunder-utilizationof human capital resources amongst young people in Nigeria and also an indication of the fact that employers have no confidence in the skills andexperienceof young graduates thus naturally prefer the older folks.

Youths who have the opportunity to go to school are forced to study longer by proceeding to a masters degree as job opportunities are becoming more and more scarce, less well paid and less secure, delaying the age at which they become financially independent from their parents. Those who do not have the opportunity to further their education choose to leave the school system due to circumstance such as a lack of finance, strike etc. tend to face marginalization from the corporate environment from which they may never recover, either as a result of lack of adequate skills or experience.

Statistics claim, over three million youth in Lagos state alone are unemployed, about two million under skilled for employment, while others work as temporal staff and are cheated by employment agencies with little pay and no social protection, leading me to question the lack of laws to protect employees in Nigeria. Back to the subject matter the neglect of Nigerian youth is one of the major causes of drug abuse, unproductive activities such as internet fraud, prostitution, violent behavior, armed robbery, continuous riot and the boko haram crisis causing economic instability and threatening investmentopportunitiesin the country.

According to United Nations reports, Nigerian youth migrants in Europe and America are three times more than migrants from other west -African country. This report also added that the migration rate of the youth was 32 per cent in 1999, compared to less than 15 percent for the non-youth population. It is estimated that by the end of 2012, over 50 percent of the youths in Nigeria will be residing in foreign countries where job opportunities are easier to come by.In this regard, the United Nations recommends that programs that encourages quality education and support youth entrepreneurship and skills acquisition be integrated in development and re-orientation of economic activity and social investment towards the youth population be embarked upon to create an appropriate labor market economic balance.

An English Professor once said “the biggest problem Nigeria has with empowering her youth is the fact that they throw temporal solutions to permanent problem and never address issues from the grassroots”. In my opinion the YOUWIN program is one of such programs. Over the past decades, several NGOs have initiated processes, designed concepts and strategies focused on youth however, most of such organizations tend to not have a clear understanding of the challenges young people face and how best to tackle it.Furthermore, even for those which have developed a structural concept, too often is piecemeal and lacks a comprehensive approach to the challenges faced by the youth.

According to a recent research on “Nigerian NGOs application and methodology” these kind of programs are usually ineffective and short-lived because they establish an ideology with no practical need assessment; what the problem is, what’s causing the problem, and how they can address and further create change thus, hold seminars, create awareness and give out free computers with no real sense of what they intend to achieve in the long run.

The process of implementing youth development has the potential to identify the distinctive needs and concerns of the youth, and in Nigeria it magnifies challenges such as youth unemployment, lack of basic skills, and enabling environment for youth entrepreneurship opportunities, infrastructure and quality education which is allencompassing and interconnected to issues that will require time and major investment to tackle, so where is a good starting point?. I say quality education, because a lot of thefeedbackby employers from the above named research connotes that our educational system iscontinuouslyproducing graduates whose skills andexperiencedoes not match the present day labor market requirement

Presently, young people experience widening social gap and face manifold challenges; it is the youth who perhaps more so than any other social group encounter the uncertainties and risk generated by the process of economic and technological globalization. Even in other parts of the world where young people have access to quality education and vocational skills training, they still face insecurities in the labor market.

What is at Stake?

According to World Bank records, over 30% of the working population age in Nigeria is low-skilled but by 2015 only an estimated 15% of new jobs will be there for people with only basic qualifications. Growth relies more and more on human capital, thus the need to invest in education.

Education is center-piece for creating an ambitious and efficient youth investment strategy. Education needs to offer access to progressive learning, un-learning and re-learning. Creating flexible pathway that ensures competitive education and broadening access to high education are also fundamental to a dynamics high-skills economy. Access to education is crucial considering the dramatic increase in demands for skills and experience in a today’s society. The above indicated a need to build on formal and informal skills acquisition.

Skills demand entails that key competence are acquired in social skills, language, creativity, ICT, science, culture. In a real life corporate environment, after awhile the factors that keep and accelerates new employees are non-cognitive such as social skills, work habits and motivation, which are malleable for longer period of time than the actual formal education; making it necessary to train young people to survive in today’s world.

The development of the knowledge society relies highly on quality education. To ensure our young people’s competitiveness, major structural changes are needed in educational form and content so as to incite effective investment and return for all stakeholders. Efficiency and equity demands a targeted focus on investment in education to tackle youth unemployment and promote competitiveness in the labor market. Our society needs an encompassing youth strategy to equip the younger generation for the future; a future that is characterized by rapid changes and complexities of globalization.

Our Work force Demographic trend in Nigeria makes the need more pressing; the pressure of supporting a growing elderly population will fall upon a declining number of workers, implying on the one hand increased importance of quality education and on the other hand the need to invest in skills acquisition.

One of the ways to better prepare the youth to be competitiveness in job market and international markets, automation of industrial, entrepreneurship, commercial processes, is the use of technology to equip and expose them to knowledge that can help them gain and stay employment. Advances in information technology and communication are transforming globally, method of dispensing knowledge and presenting new challenges to all countries.

Everyone saysentrepreneurshipis the key, I think quality education is more important because what is the point giving out monies forstart upswhen theentrepreneurswont be able to compete with the big ones, however educate (formally and informally) and they will have the ability to create employment and sustain a business. There is a need for Nigeria to embrace and invest in quality education and embrace Information and Communication Technology as a tool for youth development.

This article was originally published on 31st July 2012 on

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