Every August 12th, we celebrate International Youth Day to raise awareness of the potential that young people have to bring change to the world while also celebrating the enthusiasm, creativity, and energy of youth. Young people are an untapped reservoir of talent, and we at Youth for Technology Foundation believe it is essential to give them the right tools to express their opinions and unlock their potential. Digital skills empower youth and can be the key to reducing youth unemployment.
Transforming Education in Africa and Beyond
The theme for this year’s International Youth Day is Transforming Education. There could be no better term for the work Youth for Technology Foundation has been diligently doing for almost 20 years now than “transformative”. By equipping youths and women with digital literacy skills to bridge the gap between what the educational system provides and what real-life industries need, we’re truly transforming lives and communities. Today draws attention to the work we have done to encourage and support youths while exposing the huge gap in what still needs to be done. 70% of schools in Africa produce unemployable youths because of the failures in the academic system.
At Youth for Technology Foundation we believe that young people are at the forefront of global change and innovation and therefore need to be empowered, to become key agents for development. The need to empower and equip youths with adequate technology training cannot be over emphasized. This is the reason that YTF has remained unrelenting in constantly implementing programs that will equip young people in low-income communities and developing nations with critical thinking, problem solving, and creativity skills grounded in technology.
Programs that Empower
YTF runs a range of programs for teens and youths. Each program uses technology to support education, entrepreneurship, employment, and empowerment that ultimately can help eliminate poverty and ensure equity for all. Young people in Africa make up nearly 40 percent of today’s working-age population, yet 60 percent are unemployed. This high rate of youth unemployment can be attributed to the mismatch between skills demanded by private sector employers and the skills that the workforce actually possess. Education systems in many African countries are not meeting private sector demand. Many students who do attend universities never engage in vocational, technical, or engineering studies.
YTF Academy is an after-school programs that supports youth of all ages with the goal of keeping them engaged in school through the positive effects of technology-centered programming. YTF Academy is a critical program for many youths as they make the transition into secondary school, university, and the workforce. YTF Academy is YTF’s flagship program and forms the foundation of all our work. Since 2000, we have graduated more than 320,000 youths from YTF Academy.
Coding Clubs are positive peer-learning communities where students learn coding in a creative and collaborative environment. In partnership with Raspberry Pi Foundation, YTF recently introduced Coding Clubs into several primary and secondary schools in Nigeria and Kenya. The aim of the clubs are to ignite interest in STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) learning at an early age. Students aged between 7-13 years learn on how to become makers, inventors, and developers of new technologies and are taught to appreciate creative thinking, critical thinking and analytical thinking as they learn coding using the Scratch programming language. The skills that participants in Coding Clubs learn make them better prepared for the future of work while sparking their interest in pursuing STEM-related career paths.
3D Africa is a youth-focused program that serves under-educated youth, and under-employed students and recent university graduates in Nigeria. The program teaches computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D printing skills, enabling youth to upgrade their skillsets and gain real-world experience designing, fabricating, and marketing their own products. It also enables participants to acquire the leadership and business skills they need to access job opportunities and start their own enterprises. The 3D Africa program is designed to address two major issues in Nigeria: the employability skills gap and high youth unemployment. So far, YTF has trained more than 2,000 youths and organized several 3D printing training workshops in partnership with universities and secondary schools in Nigeria.
To further this work, we’ve recently launched 3D Africa Clubs. The goal of 3D Africa Clubs is to create a generation of technology innovators and entrepreneurs in Universities across Nigeria who will create a ripple effect of positive impacts in their communities using their knowledge of hardware and software skills to create innovations that will bring solutions to the myriad of technological and socio-economic challenges faced in Nigeria. We have already begun 3D Africa Clubs in 5 universities in Nigeria!
3D Africa HackforGood is an annual three-day design and prototyping contest held in partnership with the education community and private sector that provides young people from across Nigeria with access to cutting-edge technology, expert instruction, and world-class mentoring. HackforGood empowers youths to future-proof themselves by exposing them to emerging technologies like 3D printing, robotics, artificial intelligence, blockchain and the Internet of Things and provides them with the opportunity to develop the world’s next best innovation. HackForGood is transforming more than just education! It’s transforming the international narrative from ‘Aid to Africa’ to ‘Made in Africa’.
On Youth Day and Every Day!
So much has been done, and yet we have not even scratched the surface. The United Nations anticipates that Nigeria will become the third most populated country in the world by 2050 with a population of 399 million people. It’s clear that the work of empowering the youth in the communities we have been serving for nearly two decades is far from done. Youth for Technology Foundation will continue to do what it knows to do best. We remain resolute and determined to continue transforming education to close the skills gap and help solve the youth unemployment crisis.
Happy International Youth Day!!!
About the Author: Chetachi Joe-Obi is the Nigerian Country Manager for Youth for Technology Foundation.