9 questions for a youth education advocate


Victoria Ibiwoye (centre)

“When we invest strongly in education, everyone benefits!”

Meet Victoria Ibiwoye from Nigeria, the Youth Representative for the SDG-Education 2030 Steering Committee.  She is a passionate young leader who also founded the OneAfricanChild Foundation for Creative Learning, an NGO focused on Education for Sustainable Development and Global Citizenship Education for low-income community children in Africa.

Ahead of her participation at the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum in New York on 8-9 April, Victoria answered nine questions on the youth perspective of Sustainable Development Goal 4.

Where would you place education in the Sustainable Development Goals?

Education holds the key to unlock all the SDGs, and no doubt, it is rightly placed at the centre of the 17 sustainable development goals. In a world with over 7 billion people, education empowers individuals and society to learn to live together sustainably. It inspires us to act responsibly, based on the understanding that what we do today has a major impact on the lives of people and the planet in the future.

How can youth worldwide actively contribute towards achieving SDG4 in their communities?

As a young person, I understand the need to exercise my civic rights because I have seen and felt what it feels like to be deprived of quality and inclusive education. I have also seen the power of education breaking the cycle of poverty, transforming lives and building resilient societies. When we invest strongly in education, everyone benefits!

Young people are usually more conversant with the pain points and challenges at the grassroots. Some have been victims of the system, and this robust knowledge of the problem and its pains can be a driver for stimulating solutions in them. Our unique experiences, which include our stories, can be a powerful tool in driving advocacy and making significant changes in our communities.

How do we place young people at the heart of decision-making processes?

Leaders need to see young people not only as beneficiaries but also as an agency that accounts for nearly 25% of the world’s population.  Youth are societal actors and our choices and action affects society. There is a huge opportunity in viewing young people as actors, knowledge holders and innovators. Recognizing young people as leaders of today gives meaning to our contribution as autonomous civic agents. Young people are key stakeholders in any developmental thinking process. They can contribute to the consultation, planning, implementation and follow-up of any initiative or task.

What are the challenges faced by marginalized youth groups and how do we address them?

The scale of the global problem of out-of-school children – especially when it comes to migrant and refugee children – has increased faster than our efforts. Today, there are four million out-of-school refugee children. Among the challenges faced is a lack of academic and skills accreditation and certification recognition in host countries.

Many refugees are forced to flee their countries of origin without official documentation – when they are forced to leave at short notice, it is not surprising many travel with just the clothes they are wearing. Those that do manage to take necessary documentation often find that it is not recognized when they reach the safety of their host community.

Without the necessary documentation or with documentation that isn’t recognized, many refugees are unable to access essential services from their host country authorities, including access to education to continue their studies.

How do we ensure that education systems are more inclusive and equitable?

By recognizing the needs of these groups and creating a model that removes barriers and boundaries. The global community dedicated to SDG 4 needs to address the critical challenge of cross-border recognition of credentials for children and young people who find themselves displaced, and forced to flee their homes, communities, and their education. Efforts to provide and protect quality education for out of school children, especially the most disadvantaged around the world, need to be doubled by nations, NGOs, industry, and all those involved in the provision of education around the world.

How should education systems change to address the learning needs of youth?

Experiencing a paradigm shift towards soft skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, creativity and emotional intelligence. We must ensure that education systems are more fluid with bridges to different courses and levels, and that they take into account not only formal but also non-formal education.

Are today’s teachers/educators ready to create the leaders we need tomorrow?

No, many teachers don’t have what it takes to build the leaders of tomorrow and the quality of education cannot grow beyond the capacity of the teachers in it. Youth can take charge by equipping educators with skills that can empower the next generation and educators can leverage digitization to access best practices from different parts of the world. We need interactive and immersive sessions through virtual reality and constant optimization of teaching methods to suit both generic and specific needs of learners via artificial intelligence. We also need education to focus more on human rights, gender equality, global citizenship, peace and non-violence and cultural diversity.

What skills and attitudes are important for youth to learn in order to build just and peaceful societies?

Young people must learn empathy, advocacy and civic rights. This learning can happen in institutions, virtual classrooms, faith centers, and professional workspaces.

How do we ensure that such learning become priorities everywhere?

Policymakers and key stakeholders have to draw a roadmap that makes both the governments and private institutions accountable and responsible for the promotion of life-long learning both within and outside the walls of the education space.

Find out how UNESCO is leading the Education 2030 Agenda.