Copy of #TheSafeSpace column published in Times of Swaziland, 27 January 2015:
If you are able to read this sentence, congratulations to you and the people who people who invested the time and resources into making sure that you have a basic grasp of the English language. If you are able to read and understand this entire article then you are part of a very lucky segment of the African population. The truth of the matter is, access to education remains a constant challenge, especially for young girls and women.
In the world we live in, education is one of the keys that opens up great opportunities for an individual, a family, community, city, nation and ultimately a continent. There is really no two ways about it, education is a vital component in all our lives and each of us deserves to be introduced to it. Even though Africans are different in many ways, we all share a common goal; to develop into a land of widespread opportunity and constant growth. If this goal is to be fully realised, we need to step up and start empowering our people with the education at all levels, including our young girls and women who are so often marginalised. As you read this, there are children who are not able to get educated because their Government does not provide free universal primary education. At this very moment, there are young adults who are unable to enrol into tertiary institutions because there are no systems in place to cater for young people from low income households. In Africa, we have adults who are not able to provide for dependents in this increasingly expensive world because there are no structures that provide skills training that would bolster their employability.
At this rate, our beautiful land will be stuck in vicious spiral of ‘false progress’. False progress is the act of thinking you are moving forward but in the long run the progress is not at the level that it should be. Africa deserves more than just mediocre progress. Africa has the potential, resources and desire to be a first world continent but all this is futile if we do not aggressively invest into educating ourselves and each other. In this quest for an educated and empowered continent, the youth has to be fully involved and drive the agenda from the front line. We as the young people of Africa have to drop the ‘Oh no, its so difficult and old people don’t take us seriously’ mentality. This frame of mind will not get us anywhere and most importantly it will fail Africa. We need to cultivate a mentality that focuses on solutions and does not dwell on challenges.
On the 27th and 28th of January 2016 in Addis Ababa, young people will get an opportunity to address education and four other thematic areas in this year’s Intergenerational Dialogue. The stage will be set for the youth to have face to face discussions with Heads of State in an effort to drive solutions that will positively impact the average African child. Unfortunately there are some people who view such activities as futile because ‘things don’t seem to change’. Personally, I don’t subscribe to such forms of thinking because they hamper any potential progress that can be made and also because those who are quick to point out challenges rather than solutions bore me! From where I am standing, I will continue doing my part in ensuring that our great Africa continues to move in only one direction; forward. Are you with me?
Feel free to share your comments with me through Twitter (@chr1sfleming), blog (www.chr1sfleming.wordpress.com) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information or news on the Intergenerational Dialogue, follow the hashtag #AUIGD2016 on Twitter. Until we meet again, goodbye.