Education is a fundamental human right and ensuring the youth have access to quality education is vital. This empowers them and it comes with a host of positive benefits in the long term. Sustainable Development Goal number four (SDG4) seeks to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.
Education is one of the weapons humanity can use to fight inequality, climate change, extreme poverty, and unemployment. In developing countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, education in some cases is still out of reach for many young people due to several factors including poverty, cultural beliefs and lack of proper infrastructure. Africa is home to more than 40 percent of the world’s youth and ensuring they have access to quality education will go a long way in sustainably developing the region.
Below are some of the benefits that come with educating the youth.
Enhanced labor productivity: By sharpening the skills of young people through additional education, the quality of labor is improved, leading to improved labor productivity. Enhanced labor productivity coupled with proper infrastructure accelerates economic growth and development and also attracts foreign direct investments.
Improved health: Better education also leads to improved health amongst the youth. Educated youth will seek professional medical advice and services when sick as opposed to less educated or illiterate youth. Educated young mothers will seek professional medical services during pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum period. This improves the chances of survival of their newborns.
Reduced child labor: If young people are not in school they are likely to be working somewhere trying to make ends meet. Poor children are more likely to be exploited to offer cheap labor. However, investing in their education empowers them giving them a chance for a brighter future through quality jobs, quality lifestyles and a better income.
Reduced civil conflicts: Idle minds are easily manipulated and can be turned into weapons of hate and civil unrest. Education reduces violence and civil conflict in societies. The empowerment that comes with being informed and ability to make rational decisions deters young people from being use by self-centered individuals with malicious intentions. This leads to more peaceful communities.
Reduced teen pregnancies: Evidence has shown that education led to delayed age at marriage. Young people who have completed school or are in school are less sexually active than their uneducated or less educated counterparts. Young girls in school are less likely to conceive compared to those who are at home. In Bangladesh, for example, the NGO BRAC founded 30,000 nonformal primary schools in which 70 percent of the pupils are girls age 6-14 (by design). In the areas served by these schools, the proportion of girls13-15 who are married dropped from 29 to 14 percent, while the proportion 16-19 who are married dropped from 72 to 64 percent in the participating villages (FOCUS 2002).
Avoided HIV infections: Uninformed youth engage in unsafe sex. They usually have no clue or ignore the risks associated with unprotected intercourse. Adolescent girls can work as commercial sex workers thus get exposed to HIV and other STIs. However, youth who are in school are less likely to engage in unprotected sex thus averting new HIV infections among the youth.
Reduced alcohol and drug abuse: Uneducated and unemployed youth are most likely to succumb to daily life frustrations thus resort to alcohol and drug abuse to get by. Being in school enables young people to engage in constructive activities and stay away from alcohol and drug abuse.
The list of benefits associated with youth education goes on and on. Youth empowerment has both direct and indirect advantages. It benefits future generations and brings about a paradigm shift in the way societies think and how they interact with each other. Ensuring inclusive education that benefits marginalized groups such as girls and people living with disabilities goes a long way in transforming societies.