Africa Day 2024: Celebrating Past Successes While Building Towards the Future

Published: May 17, 2024 Reading time: 7 minutes
One World In Schools documentary screening, Angola
© Foto: Edson Malongo

On 25 May, Africa Day commemorates the historic day in 1963, when African nations came together to form the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor to the African Union (AU). It is a day to celebrate the many successes and progress made throughout the continent while recognising each nation's challenges. 

Africa Day 2024 

Although there are many common challenges, Africa is not a monolith; it is complex and diverse, with over 1.2 billion people speaking over 3,000 languages in 54 countries. Africans face unique challenges, but each year, the AU chooses a theme to help guide nations towards a common goal. The theme of his year's Africa Day is “Educate an African Fit for the 21st Century: Building Resilient Education Systems for Increased Access to Inclusive, Lifelong, Quality, and Relevant Learning in Africa.” We have been working with local African communities for over 20 years to empower them to meet their challenges head-on.

If knowledge is power, then education is the key to unlocking that power. However, according to UNESCO and the African Union, more than a quarter of school-age children were out of school on the continent in 2023. The report explains that 9 out of 10 school children still cannot read or write by age ten, causing concern for the quality of available education.

With the African Union's decision to make 2024 the "Year of Education", they are calling on governments to "accelerate progress towards achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG4)". SDG4 calls for nations to "ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all". In light of this significant initiative, the work of civil society organisations is paramount. That is why we work to provide the tools and knowledge to empower African communities and other civil society organisations in places like Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Zambia, and Sudan to address these educational challenges and many more.

Education Inspires Action

Young people need to learn about the issues of today's world while also figuring out how to approach information openly and critically. We introduced One World in Schools (OWIS) in Angola, focusing on education and awareness through documentaries and films. By training teachers and providing educational materials, this programme enables students to engage in various topics with a global perspective on social and environmental issues they may not encounter otherwise. Angola is the first African country where we introduced the OWIS methodology developed by our colleagues in the Czech Republic.

Perhaps our most remarkable success story from the programme came from students of the Agricultural Technical Institute of Huambo. Inspired after participating in our film screenings, they applied for and received a grant to run an anti-rabies campaign for local animals! The students recognised an urgent need in their neighbourhood. They organised a campaign to spread awareness of the threat posed by rabies and promote mass vaccination to immunise local animals.

However, certain stigmas keep many young people out of school, particularly girls and young women, preventing them from participating in such programmes. Although menstruation is a natural and important part of women's lives, many Angolan communities still consider the subject taboo. Thus, many women are held back from education and a brighter future because of perceptions and barriers to menstrual hygiene management. That is why our team helps girls improve menstrual management and hygiene in and outside of school to help them feel comfortable and safe while working to remove the stigmas preventing them from receiving an education.   

Vocational Skills Empowering Future Generations

Although many consider a classic academic education the only path towards a successful future, it is not for everyone. This can be particularly true in areas that lack jobs that require such academic skills. For many, the best path forward is to learn a skill or trade, but they may lack opportunities. In Ethiopia, we help young people learn valuable vocational skills.  

The leather sector has a long tradition in the country but has lacked skilled professionals for some time. Our Leather Initiative for Sustainable Employment Creation (LISEC)/Green Jobs Initiative addresses these issues and youth employment through collaborations with Technical, Vocational, and Educational Training (TVET) colleges and polytechnic institutes. For former college Dean Abinet Seyfu, it was a pivotal moment for the leather department, telling us, "The support we received has been a dream the college couldn't achieve in the short run. While Modjo is identified as a leather city with many tanneries, I have always felt sad that we couldn't provide leather training and support the youth.

Complex Problems Need a Comprehensive Programme

Africa is a complex and diverse continent and so are the issues faced by the people living there. Consequently, at PIN, we have programmes covering a wide array of topics—not just education. Below, you will find just a snippet of the work we do across Africa.

Agriculture

Across our Country Programmes in Africa, we support sustainable agriculture. We run projects that are designed to help local farmers directly. For maximum benefit, we work on providing farmers with crops that are both nutritious and robust. The former helps combat malnutrition—a widespread issue in many African countries. The latter helps farmers combat the negative consequences of climate change and conflicts, as we can see in Southern Ethiopia.

What's more, our work, for example, in Zambia, helps local farmers conserve and improve the natural environment that is often a source of both life and livelihood. In this example, we are helping to prevent the loss of wetlands that provide food and work to thousands of people. 

Malnutrition

Malnutrition remains problematic in parts of Africa. To combat malnutrition, we work hand-in-hand with local communities to identify and remedy the causes—and manage the symptoms where they appear.

For example, in the DRC, we organise demonstrations to inspire mothers to cook nutritious foods made from local ingredients. These classes have reduced malnutrition in areas where we work. Better still, community members share knowledge amongst themselves, thus enhancing the impact of this vital work. 

Whilst in Angola, we are supporting local civil society to engage in the fight against malnutrition. Local CSOs and other actors are vital everywhere we work, as they often act as a bridge between PIN and the communities we serve.  

WASH

Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), is a core area of our work. Globally, WASH is essential to preserving life and maintaining dignity, which is no different in Africa. Across the continent, we engage in projects that aim to rehabilitate infrastructure to provide clean water for drinking and washing.

In Ethiopia, for example, we help facilitate the supply of clean water; this water is vital to sustaining life and agriculture in the sweltering sun. Over the past 20 years, we have helped build or rehabilitate nearly 1,000 drinking water sources which are now managed by local water communities. These efforts have provided more than three quarters of a million people with clean water access.

On top of clean water access, we help provide latrines. We often take the toilet for granted; we forget that the absence of toilets often presages the presence of disease, and our teams are working to stop this. Last year alone, we provided safe toilet access to over 30,000 people in Angola.

Climate Change

As with the rest of the world, Africa has not escaped the vagaries of climate change. Worse, in Africa, the people least responsible for climate change are most vulnerable to its negative consequences.

To mitigate the effects of climate change, we have instigated projects across the continent. In the DRC, we are helping to grow bamboo as an alternative fuel source; this helps protect old-growth forests and cut down carbon emissions. Likewise, in Zambia, we are reducing waste and emissions and increasing crop yields through the use of biogas and its by-product bio-slurry. This innovative fuel helps families save money and the environment because biogas reduces food waste and carbon emissions, and the bio-slurry produced is an excellent eco-friendly fertiliser. And finally, in Ethiopia, our colleague Mesfin and his team are teaching Ethiopians to manage their natural resources.

African Solutions to African Problems.

As we celebrate Africa Day, we take stock of all we have achieved together. Whilst we work hard in Africa, we do not work alone. Throughout this article, we have seen time and again that Africans are solving their problems. We must bury the cliché of "helpless people" because the throughline here is one of Africans taking action—from Angola to Zambia

Join us in wishing Africans everywhere a happy Africa Day!

Autor: Conor Pleše

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