The economic transformation experienced by the East Asian Tigers was said to have been achieved at least between 25 and 40 per cent through demographic dividend. Demographic dividend is the economic growth derivable from a country’s youth population in the working age group.
In Nigeria, data from the Demographic Statistics Bulletin of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) show that majority of the population lies between ages 0–14, followed by the youth aged 16-30. Statistics also reveal that youth form at least half of Nigeria’s projected 200 million population.What this means for the country is a high dependency rate, with huge numbers of the dependent population entering the working age group on a daily basis.
Increasingly, youths in the country are working to create a better future for themselves amidst growing unemployment and limited opportunities, as there has been no concise efforts or policies aimed at improving the quality of and access to education and harnessing their potential.
According to the World Youth Report, one in four people of secondary-school age are not enrolled in a school and less than half of all young people are participating in the labour market. And even among those that do have a job, one in six live in extreme poverty.
It is high time the government began to look at and interpret these numbers not just as statistics, but a waste of useful capacity for the attainment of its development goals.
The theme of the 2019 International Youth Day marked every August 12, “Transforming education”, highlights efforts to make education more relevant, equitable and inclusive for all youth, including efforts by youth themselves. This year’s event examines how governments, young people and youth-led and youth-focused organisations, as well as other stakeholders, are transforming education and how these efforts are contributing to the achievement the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
In Nigeria, just like the rest of the world, significant transformations are still required to make education systems more inclusive and accessible. Available statistics for the world show that only 10 per cent of people have completed upper secondary education in low income countries; 40 per cent of the global population is not taught in a language they speak or fully understand; and over 75 per cent of secondary school age refugees are out of school. Additionally, indigenous youth, young people with disabilities, young women, young people belonging to vulnerable groups or in vulnerable situations, etc. are facing additional challenges to access education that respects their diverse needs and abilities as well as reflects and embraces their unique realities and identities.
According to the UN, making education more relevant, equitable and inclusive is crucial to achieving sustainable development, adding that education is a ‘development multiplier’ in that it plays a pivotal role in accelerating progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, be it poverty eradication, good health, gender equality, decent work and growth, reduced inequalities, action on climate or building peaceful societies. Education should lead to effective learning outcomes, with the content of school curricula and pedagogy being fit for purpose, not only for the 4th industrial revolution and the future of work and life, but also for the opportunities and challenges that rapidly changing social contexts bring. Ensuring access to inclusive, quality education is, therefore, essential for young people’s chances of finding decent work. Quality primary and secondary education are not enough. They should be complemented by affordable technical, vocational and tertiary education that provides youth with relevant skills for employment and entrepreneurship.
Nigeria can have a cue from the East Asian Tigers by optimally harnessing the potentials of the youth population education, particularly acquisition of relevant technical and soft skills to enable them fit into the 21st Century work place to develop careers. Such skills, particularly in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM)-based activities and programmes, will prepare the youth as contributors to the economic development of the country.