Skills Development: Vision for the Skilled African Youth
All around the world the COVID-19 pandemic struck a huge blow to the global economy. The education sector was particularly affected, with over 1.2 billion learners globally affected by the resultant school closure (UNESCO, 2020). This abrupt closure led to significant disruptions in the education system in Nigeria; including learning modes, access to school-related services, parenting routines, and crisis management capacities of the federal and state ministries of education. OECD 2020 investigated how school attendance and learning outcomes affect labour-market chances and economic development. With COVID-19, the outcome of lost school hours cannot be immediately measured, and already, unemployment in Nigeria is a major bane, not an accident waiting to happen, hence, actions should be taken to mitigate more adverse social and economic outcomes.
2020 was a defining year for Africa. In the second quarter, the unemployment rate of young people aged 15-34 was 34.9%, up from 29.7%, while the rate of underemployment for the same age group rose to 28.2% from 25.7% in Q3, 2018 (National Bureau of Statistics – Q2 2020). The urgency of developing a youth population that has the right skills for economic and national development is far from a futuristic problem. The reality is we have a real and present danger with the youth population in Nigeria and Africa. There is no doubt that the future of Africa is a function of how its population is currently being educated.
In the past decade and particularly around the COVID-19 pandemic period, the continent has devised alternative ways to significantly provide increased access to education. However, the current priorities for education are yet to deliver on the promise of education in our society (innovation, long-term economic growth). The era ushered in by the pandemic indicates that, beyond survival, there is a need to educate African children for a future of innovation that contributes to the global economy.
The continent’s majority youth population needs a multiplicity of skills that position them for productivity, inclusion, creativity and adaptability within a rapidly evolving world. It is against this backdrop that NEDIS 6 strategically contributed to the education policy agenda within the continent.