Victoria Ibiwoye, Founder and Director of OneAfricanChild Foundation reflects on her experience growing up and how she found her path as an advocate for education in Africa and across the globe. This is her story.
As a child, I never understood what it meant to live in a society that is unequal.
Growing up, I never had a luxurious childhood. However, my siblings and I had the basic necessities provided to us by our parents. They invested so much in our education and wellbeing, making sure we were happy and contented. They also made the big move to a different location, all in an effort to give us a better life and future. I didn’t understand why they did the things they did at the time; moving from one location to another, changing our schools and in essence, starting a new life. At the time, it felt like my entire universe went through a process of rebirth.
Looking back today, I feel grateful for the education that I received because it opened my eyes to see the world and gave me an opportunity to do something for the thousands of children in my community, and millions of children around the world who have little or no choice to make the kind of transformation that I did.
As I grew older, I began to notice the inequality in education and how that in itself is influenced by several factors like the environment one comes from, family background, socio-economic status, physical and mental wellbeing, political situation and so on. These are factors beyond the control of a child. When children are born, they do not ask to be born into these kinds of situations but when they find themselves in it, they are made to become adults overnight having to navigate these uncharted waters.
According to recent data from the UNESCO Institute of Statistics, about 258 million children, adolescents and youth are out of school. The data confirm recent projections showing that, without a shift from ‟business as usual”, one in every six children aged 6 to 17 will still be out of school in 2030 and only six out of ten youth will complete secondary education. I started OneAfricanChild Foundation for Creative Learning in 2013, to address this inequality and ignite hope by leveraging the power of education to transform the lives of the most marginalised children.
Education can lift individuals out of poverty, raise ethical and responsible citizens, and build resilient societies. Education is not a cost but rather an investment that yield returns. Although, it is important to make laws and policies recognising education as a fundamental right, without taking action, our laws and policies would be ineffective. Our work with communities is so important because it enables us to reach those at the bottom of the pyramid who are disconnected from civilisation and provide them with the necessary skills to become leaders and active citizens. As all of our projects are youth-led, it also goes to show the power of young people to lead and drive change. You’ll find our youth leaders in grassroot communities and also at high-level consultation, calling on leaders to take concrete steps to act on their promises.
On the international day of education, we must recognise that it takes a village to raise a child. Whilst it is the responsibility of governments as duty bearers to ensure access to equitable, quality and inclusive education for all, we as citizens, parents, teachers and school leaders, public institutions and civic society organisations must stay accountable as much as we urge leaders to stay accountable. Everyone has a role to play in achieving the goal and targets set out for education in the 2030 agenda for sustainable development.