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15 October 2019
Victoria Ibiwoye struggled to keep up with her classmates all through her school years. She had difficulty reading and issues with comprehension. It is only recently that, after doing her own research, she surmised that she most likely had dyslexia.
"I had to figure out on my own how to succeed at my academics. This not only affected my academic standing it also affected my self-esteem and my social, emotional interactions with others in the classroom and in society," she recalls. "So it shows that our education system is not as inclusive as it should be, where certain children don't feel like they belong because they learn differently."
Her experience inspired her to set up OneAfricanChild Foundation for Creative Learning, an NGO whose goal is to equip the most disadvantaged and disconnected students with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to become active members of society. Ibiwoye says she was inspired by the idea that all of us must see the unique potential in every child to create an inclusive environment where they could explore their abilities.
"We aim to create a space where learners not only learn about education as a means of livelihood, but also learn about the value of education to become active citizens who respect the rule of law and contribute to building a culture of lawfulness," she says.
For Ibiwoye, many African countries have been able to bridge the gap for free, basic education. However, one of the main challenges that remains for young people is linked to the cost of quality education. She adds that many school-aged children from economically disadvantaged communities not only have to go to school in the mornings but they must also help their parents earn an income in the afternoons, not giving ample time for them to focus on their education.
Like other civil society organizations in her native Nigeria, Ibiwoye says that hers has faced hurdles in collaborating with the Government.
"The notion that civil society or NGOs working in education are working differently from what the Government is doing really needs to change. At OneAfricanChild, I see the work that we do as not duplicating efforts but rather complementing what the Government is already doing," she stresses.
"The Government already has the platform, sometimes the infrastructure is already there, but the Government also doesn't have all the solutions that we need."
Ibiwoye also believes that human rights education is a powerful tool to build just, tolerant and peaceful societies, and can assist the youth in becoming constructive and critical thinkers who apply the principles of human rights in their daily lives.
"We live in a world that is increasingly becoming polarized by fake news, xenophobia, hate speech, sexism and lots more. How do we equip young people with skills so that they don't become part of the problem, not adding to the chaos that our world is already facing but rather being part of the solution; standing up for what is right, not being passive agents of change but active agents of change?" she asks. "This is the goal of human rights education."
Ibiwoye was one of the panel speakers discussing human rights education for youth and by youth at this year's Social Forum, an annual meeting of the Human Rights Council that provides a unique space for open and interactive discussions between civil society actors, international organizations and Governmental representatives.
This year's edition of the Forum took place on the 30th anniversary year of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and at a time when youth has become a priority for the United Nations, including through the launch of a new phase (2020-2024), dedicated to youth of the World Programme for Human Rights Education. Further, the Forum's theme this year also aligned with International Youth Day 2019, whose focus was "transforming education" to make it more inclusive and accessible for all youth.
Next year's Social Forum - to be held on 6-7 October 2020 – will focus on combating poverty and inequalities.
15 October 2019