International Youth Day: Learning for Life and Safe Spaces for Youth

Throughout 2018 our marine biologists here at Love The Oceans will be doing blog posts on topics of Named Days. To keep up to date, follow this blog, also found under the ‘News’ tab on our website. Without further ado, in celebration of International Youth Day 2018, I introduce our eighteenth blog in this marine series:

International Youth Day: Learning for Life and Safe Spaces for Youth

August 12this International Youth Day, an international awareness day for the cultural and legal issues surrounding youth. Phew, that’s quite a dense first sentence to digest, isn’t it? Now, what does this actually mean, and why do ‘youth’ as a group need their own day? – surely there are enough awareness days around to cover off any issues that youth might face
Well, the answer comes naturally if you look at the UN’s definition of youth: “’Youth’ is best understood as a period of transition from the dependence of childhood to adulthood’s independence and awareness of our interdependence as members of a community.” So, basically ‘youth’ is when that awkward part of your life where you fall between categories before figuring out where you fit in. (Trust us: Been there. Done that. Didn’t get the t-shirt – no need for further reminders of that stage of life…)
Youth do need their own awareness day, because falling in between categories also means falling in between safety nets: Most countries, including developing countries, have clear legislation and systems protecting children, particularly while they are in school. Likewise, most countries have clear legislation and frameworks for adults under employment. Few countries however have framework in place to handle youth who are not under education or employment. This is particularly a problem in developing countries where children usually leave school early, either because of lack of funds to pay for continued education, cultural customs dictating otherwise or simply because of lack of access to education.
The Theme of International Youth Day 2018 is Safe Spaces for Youth. Now, for most of us school is somewhere you have to go – maybe even a place you would like to avoid… But for youth in developing countries school is very much an example of a safe space and increasing the access to education solves many of the issues that youth face, simply by allowing them to stay in the education bracket for longer.
In Mozambique national adult illiteracy rate is 62.5% for women compared to ‘only’ 33% for men. Illiteracy among women is three times higher in rural areas than in urban areas (78.4% versus 34%). While the difference between rural and urbanised areas does exist for men too it is far less marked (45% versus 18%). Just as literacy, school attendance is also significantly lower for women than for men, and lower in rural areas than in urban areas.
As we wrote for International Women’s Day poor and unequal access to education directly translates into reduced living conditions for the entire community, excessive reliance on natural resources and increased vulnerability to climate change and biodiversity loss . Fixing access to education and increasing the quality of the education may not solve all of these issues in one go – but it will bring us quite a few steps closer.
As part of Love The Oceans’ commitment to Conservation Through Research, Education and Diving, every year we deliver educational projects about sustainability, biology and marine resource management at Guinjata and Paindane School. Our educational projects have currently been running for 3 years during which we have taught 750 children in primary school. As part of our educational projects, our volunteers paint educational murals that are used by the teachers instead of traditional teaching materials that are expensive and scarce in rural Mozambique. An unexpected, but very happy result of our construction and maintenance work, is that parents no longer have to pay the maintenance fees that they previously had to cover to send their children to school, which means that our educational projects are effectively sponsoring free education for around 1500 children. Many of these children are girls, who would otherwise be the first to be taken out of school if their parents could not afford the maintenance fee.
In cooperation with the community elders, headmasters and headteachers, Love The Oceans has committed to building a new classroom at each school every year, and repair and maintain existing classrooms to ensure that the schools have the best possible facilities. The local authorities have agreed to elevate Guinjata and Paindane School to secondary school status by providing extra teachers and resources once each of the schools reach 10 buildings.
Obtaining secondary school status would make an enormous difference for youth of the communities as there are currently no other secondary schools in the area – the closest is two hours walk away which means that many children don’t attend simply because of the distance. Being able to provide secondary schooling locally would mean the many of the children, who currently leave school early with limited opportunities, would be able to stay in school longer and would effectively provide them with better prospects for life.
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Love The Oceans is currently fundraising for this year’s construction and maintenance at each school. All of the money goes directly into sourcing local materials and paying local builders, so by donating you are not only helping to build a much valued space for children and youth, you are also supporting the local economy. You can donate here. As little or as much as you can give will be very much appreciated! If you think you’ll be charged international transaction fees, you can also donate through PayPal on our website.

Happy International Youth Day!

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