Education and poverty alleviation are important debates in international development and form two of the Sustainable Development Goals. Many countries are investing in education as it plays an important role in the development of a country. Education opens pathways to Innovation, which is an important element to economic development. According to the OECD 2012 report, several emerging economies –in particular China have become significant actors in the global innovation system. Innovative countries are able to deal with the challenges of development such as reducing hunger, improving access to drinking water, electricity and providing employment opportunities, thereby bringing out many out of abject poverty.
Countries in Africa such as Nigeria have a high youth population that are unemployed. According to the ILO 2019 report, the youth unemployment rate in Africa is expected to exceed 30% by the end of 2019 and young people will continue to be unemployed. Youth unemployment also remains a major issue in Nigeria even with some of the innovative policies introduced by the Nigerian government (Dandago & Muhammad, 2014). Although, Nigeria is the continent’s second biggest economy and leading oil producer, unemployment is said to cut across all age groups with the Nigerian youth between the ages of 15 – 24 bearing the biggest brunt of it. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s unemployment rate increased from 18.8 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 to 23.1 per cent in in the third quarter of 2018. Youth unemployment is purported to have led to problems such as youth delinquency and an increase in violence (Akanle and Adesina, 2015).
The discourse of youth employment and job creation has attracted the attention of policy makers and development practitioners globally. Jobs are one of the main sources of income for the majority of households and a key driver of poverty reduction; consequently, jobs have been described as the most important determinant of living standards around the world (World Development Report, 2013). There is the general assertion that today’s young generation are the most highly educated in world history (Matsumoto and Elder, 2010). However, many young men and women equally experience challenges in entering and remaining in the labour market. In Nigeria, there are large number of young people who are unemployed and their transition to work dysfunctional.
Focusing on some of the above-mentioned challenges, attention should be given to transformative learning and learning geared towards preparing the youth to be part of the solution. Therefore, secondary schools and higher education Institutions should include in their curriculum teaching that entails critical thinking, problem solving and innovative thinking to allow students to understand and make sense of complexities of the society they live in and develop solutions. Schools should move past the conventional ways of teaching and develop appropriate approaches of knowledge transfer. In Paulo Freire’s (1970) the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, “Knowledge emerges only through invention and re-invention…”. Innovation oriented knowledge that meets the needs of the people should be of high priority to any developing country as opposed to traditional curriculum that has become obsolete and generally observed as disengaging from today’s youths. Recommendations to overhaul curriculum has become popular, emerging from different charitable organisations and youths themselves. In the UK for instance, some programmes have responded favourably to the generation and development of life skills through the Duke of Edinburgh Award, a very popular programme for school leaving students.
Perhaps this is a programme that can be replicated in emerging countries that include those of Sub-Saharan Africa. An inventive programme that supports and enhances the education needs of young people and helps them transit successfully into sustained employment should be strategically placed at the top of the agenda of all education ministries for effective implementation and a pathway to development.