Basic education and gender equality

'Beyond School Books' - a podcast series on education in emergencies

Podcast #28: International Year of Youth focuses on youth participation in education

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© UNICEF/NYHQ2010-1376/Marta Ramoneda
Boys use a sewing machine in a vocational class in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

By Pi James

In proclaiming the International Year of Youth, which runs from 12 August 2010 to 11 August 2011, the United Nations called on governments, civil society, individuals and communities worldwide to support activities for children. Here is a related story.

NEW YORK, USA, 13 August 2010 – More than 2 billion people worldwide are under the age of 18, and nearly 90 percent of them live in developing nations, according to UNICEF's estimates. Yesterday, International Youth Day, kicked off the International Year of Youth, which aims to advance the full and effective participation of youth in all aspects of society worldwide.

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To mark the occasion, UNICEF podcast moderator Amy Costello spoke with two guests, Carvarinho Magalhaes Jeronimo Bento, who lives in the conflict-affected south-east Asian nation of Timor-Leste, and Radha Rajkotia, Senior Technical Advisor for Youth and Livelihoods at the International Rescue Committee in Washington DC. The guests discussed the educational challenges facing young people in conflict and post-crisis nations.

Older children overlooked

Ms. Rajkotia recently returned from Haiti, where she said she was struck by a “stark difference” between the services available for younger children and older youths.

“I was pretty startled to see that there are very limited options for youth in those settlements,” said Ms. Rajkotia, referring to older children and adolescents in makeshift camps for displaced by the Haiti earthquake early this year. “These youths have for six months now been sitting idle with nothing to do.”

This situation is not unique, she added. In times of crisis, the immediate focus of education or protection is frequently on younger children, and older children are often overlooked.

Boosting opportunities

Mr. Bento, 25, is a student living in Dili, the capital of Timor-Leste. He is actively involved with youth in his country, which has been devastated by years of conflict and violent unrest. Limited educational opportunities exist for young people in rural areas of Timor-Leste, he said, particularly in the case of secondary schools and universities.

“Some [young people] have money, so they can come to the town to continue their studies,” said Mr. Bento. “But those who do not have money … just stop their studying and go to get some work.”

Ms. Rajkotia said there has been a recent move among youth programme practitioners towards ensuring that education is relevant and flexible, takes into consideration the employment opportunities available and “prepares young people for the reality of their lives.” 

“We don’t want young people to think, ‘I’m trained as a tailor, so that means I should be a tailor for the rest of my life’,” she said. “We want young people to be able to say, ‘I’m learning skills and I’m gaining knowledge that is going to help me progress. I’m going to be a tailor for a couple of years, and if that doesn’t work out, then I’ll move onto something else.’”


 

 

Audio

4 August 2010: To mark the start of the International Year of Youth, UNICEF Radio moderator Amy Costello speaks with two guests about the educational challenges facing young people in crisis and post-conflict nations.
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