Investing in people to create change

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Challenging societal norms that may be oppressive is something that is not easy, so manoeuvring rather than radical upheaval/change when a person is up against  a system may be the best approach .  One Egyptian woman lived as a man, for 43 years, in order to save her family, her daughter and grandchildren from poverty and starvation as her daughter’s husband had died.

School enrolment does not necessarily guarantee that a child will be literate on graduation or equipped with the skills to carry them forwards should they wish to, girls are particularly disadvantaged.

One may learn one plus one equals two, but how does one apply this to new situations and challenges, in an African context, how does one deal with the challenges of being frowned upon if one sends a girl child to school or further education, instead of a male child?  Two entrepreneurs in Nigeria and Cameroon sought to deal with some of these problems.

Kangha and Omotola Akinsola undertook a joint project in Cameroon and Nigeria called Jumpstart Academy Africa, to improve learning in these countries by equipping young people with skills that they can use in the workplace in the 21st Century.  Only a small percentage of education happens in the classroom, as 70% of students are girls, and by doing this they are challenging societal norms.

A shy and reserved 17 year old girl, began hosting a radio program to educate a local community about leadership and entrepreneurship through the program, and has been selected for Yale Young People’s Scholarship Program.

Making technology, information, communication, mass media and so on,  more easily available to ordinary Africans is very difficult, especially because the structures to spread them, hardly exists within the continent and with Africa’s youth accounting for such a high percentage of our populations, a great amount of investment is needed every year.

Also adapting these technologies to local systems and knowledge bases is equally a daunting task, as Africa is so varied, and what works for one community may not necessarily work for another, this makes addressing negative societal norms even more difficult.  Grassroots projects are coming up, but are still failing to deal with the high demand that exists.

Generally, the Africans that do have an education are not informed and may never read another book after graduating from college or university.  This leads to people having closed minds and so propagates customs which disadvantages major proportions of the population.

Learning is life long process and shouldn’t stop when one finishes one’s education.  In the West, they use technology, media, radio, TV to positively influence the minds of their people.  This is not largely being done in Africa.

“Know a man’s history and you know the man”.  Africa has largely ignored or at least dismissed our very vibrant, highly useful and interesting history, in favour of Western ideals and value systems.

For example discrimination against women is largely a fairly recent development in Africa, which was brought by colonial Western governments and was not indigenous to most African cultures or customs.  Yet we have adopted many of the negative cultures of other nations, this is one reason that makes investing in Africa so challenging, for Africans in a position of creating change.

From traditional written language systems, to traditional medicines, religions, knowledge and cultural value systems- all have been insanely abandoned.  When local knowledge systems are not integrated and applied to new problems and challenges, then the regression that we have in Africa is the result.

What creates further problems is that many of our elders are today, largely corrupted, and hence cannot lead or guide.  What you have is the shell of men and women who have regressed.  (the term commonly used, but the real reasons for it, largely absent from Western texts is -“underdevelopment”.)

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