Basic education and youth development in Africa: interview with Dr. Funiwe Njobe

Following a career change from Nursing to Social Development Studies, Dr. Funiwe Njobe lectured in Development Studies at the University of Zambia and later worked for Land and Agriculture Policy Centre as a Research manager there. She was seconded to the Department of Agriculture to develop a Post-Apartheid Model of Agriculture Education. Later she worked for Kagiso Trust developing, a model for building Social and Economic capacities of rural and peri-urban communities. She is currently working as an entrepreneur rolling out her latest model for trading posts for producers in rural and peri-urban communities that are marginalized from main stream markets.  Her PhD was on Education, looking at comparative education Systems in South Africa with particular reference to Missionary systems and Indigenous systems.



The interview is concerned with Basic education and the implications of its impact on youth development and employment in Africa.

Often learners are taught as though their limited environment is the end of the road rather than being prepared to be able to navigate their world and beyond. Learners ought to be exposed to a curriculum that has a potential to catapult them far beyond their confining environments for further education and training. They should be able to develop the confidence and anticipation to explore educational opportunities in other parts of Africa.

If food security is paramount, what is the significance of food security, health care and moral upbringing in a child’s educational development for a desirable future?

Food security and proper nutrition are an important component of basic education if children are expected to learn and be attentive in the class room. This is very important if their educational achievements are to be assured and extend their likelihood to study anywhere outside their own environments.

Moral upbringing, which should be the responsibility of both the home and the school, is significant in that it contributes to the success of the learners in staying in school and not falling by the wayside, derailed by drugs, alcohol and other forms of delinquent behavior which are a reality in many African countries even though to different degrees.

Which infrastructural development do you think will further enhance a good educational foundation for this development?

Proper infrastructural development should be encouraged where, for instance, the concept of schools without walls is encouraged. This may remove the fear of learning in that this kind of environment allows the learner to feel freer to explore other opportunities of exploring the learning environment without fear of restriction.

Proper infrastructural development include adequate sanitation and availability of running water affords the learner a conducive learning environment and inculcates in them the self-confidence they need to adapt to any environment that provides education, as a normal environment. In cases where schools experience a lack of these facilities, legal consequences to the responsible authorities should be administered. Children need to learn in a safe and secure environment.

For basic education to produce people who would be economically productive and morally upright citizens of the future, what kind of curriculum must be provided?

They need a curriculum that seeks to develop a child from various aspects and dimensions. Rather than teaching children how to be employable, they must be prepared how to think for themselves, to be creative, to be part of their own development and are able to pursue further education anywhere.

Learners must also understand the communities from which they come. That way they are able to center themselves in those communities, understand the needs of those communities and are therefore enabled to connect with those communities, because they can clearly see how their futures are tied to their communities and will readily give back in terms of helping in the development of where they come from.

Parents want a good education for their children. Do these parents have an understanding of what a good education is?

Many parents may view a “good education” as that which will provide employment after the learners complete their education. But often they do not interact properly with their children nor keep a healthy contact with the school where the children attend. It is also usually what the parents want their children to become rather than what the children are interested in. They seem to want, mostly to actualize themselves through their children. What the children are interested in or are capable of becomes secondary. Parents must understand the objectives and purpose of the school they send their children to. At best many parents become passive participants in their children’s education, to the extent that when they finish their education and are unable to find employment, they are shocked and surprised.

What do you think about courses that could include teaching responsibility of one’s actions, how boys and girls should regard one another, acceptable ways of solving problems, self-respect and respect for others as a core part of Basic Education curriculum?

Parents must also be responsible for teaching their children about relationships. They must give proper guidance in terms of how boys and girls relate to one another so that they begin to learn self-respect and respect of others. Charity truly starts at home. This is an opportunity to introduce African philosophies such as Ubuntu because they embody acceptable values that the African child must assume at this level of their education. Ubuntu, which is a concept that connects a person to other persons by acknowledging the existence of one by another, runs through African societies. This may impact positively on the behavior of young people towards one another, especially when these boys become men. Their aggressive disposition towards women may be positively impacted. Currently in South Africa in particular, pregnancy of young girls at the level of basic education is high and the rape and murder of young women has become common and shockingly worrisome.


Thinking about the Africa of tomorrow… Interview with Gilles Yabi, founder of the WATHI think tank

Gilles Yabi is Beninese by birth and has a doctorate in economics from the University of Clermont Ferrand. Development economics has always been his main area of intellectual interest. He worked as a journalist at Jeune Afrique, then as a political analyst for the International Crisis Group, for which he carried out assignments throughout West Africa. After spending some time as an independent consultant in Bamako, he returned to Dakar to manage the West Africa office of the ICG, where he spent three years from 2011 to 2013. He then resigned to focus on setting up the WATHI, a “community” think tank dedicated in particular to West African issues as well as to questions affecting Africa in general. Gilles Yabi is an example of a talented “repat”, who left to study abroad but has gladly returned to the continent whose present and future have formed the foundation and the cornerstone of his professional and personal projects. We wanted to give him a voice in this blog because he argues for a philosophy that is very close to the one we advocate at Enko Education: a pan-African initiative that seeks to build this continent together from solutions conceived right here.

Why did you decide to create WATHI? Can you tell us about the origins of the project?

This is a project that was many years in the making. I already had the idea when I was finishing my studies in France, but it was rather more centred on Benin, which is my country of origin. However, my experience later on with ICG in West Africa led me to rethink the scale of the project and to give it a regional dimension. The initial idea was to create a framework for thought leadership and collective action, working towards improving the wellbeing of populations. Many Africans who, like me, left the continent to study abroad ask themselves this question: how do I avoid being seen individually by “others” as a representative of a continent that is in last place, in terms of development? Since then, I have distanced myself as far as possible from these ideas of “development” and “underdevelopment”, but the initial question has not changed. The search for an individual response in the form of professional choices rapidly transformed into a desire to build something collective and useful that will revolutionise our countries and our communities.

What is WATHI?

It is an association that currently numbers around one hundred members of different nationalities, who live in many countries in Africa, Europe and America. The idea is to bring together individuals who support the initiative of creating a laboratory of ideas rooted in Africa and open to all. The members of the association do not necessarily have the time to get involved in intellectual production and the dissemination of knowledge. The daily work is carried out by a small team, whose members prepare the very varied content on the website and ensure the distribution of publications, particularly via social media networks. Our primary geographical area of interest is the 15 countries in the ECOWAS as well as Mauritania, Chad and Cameroon, which border the neighbouring regions of North and Central Africa. We want to participate in discussions and analyses on how to move forward on our continent, in an original and innovative way, taking into account the vast diversity of the continent and encouraging initiatives on a national, regional and continental scale. We are a community initiative, which means that we are not supported by large corporations and remain independent. We were able to launch the website in September 2015 funded by internal resources from members of the association, i.e. subscriptions and donations, and we then received a grant from the Open Society of West Africa, whose philosophy is compatible with that of WATHI. We also benefit from support contributed by friends of WATHI – any individual or entity who wants to contribute can do so – and I’d like to mention here the company Dalberg, who is also a valued partner in Dakar.

Can you give us some examples of how WATHI works?

Every quarter, we launch a new theme for discussion, and we call for contributions on this theme via the Internet and social media networks. The WATHI team selects a huge number of documents, research articles, reports from various organisations, and videos, also relating to the theme for discussion. We collect these resources as well as the articles proposed by experts and the community, and the best comments received via social media, on a specific page on our website dedicated to each theme. The team then develops a summary document that presents five major recommendations. For the record, in recent months we have discussed corruption, child labour, the enhancement of our culture, education, political institutions, reproductive health, etc. At the moment, until the end of June, we are welcoming contributions on the theme: “How can we improve the governance and efficiency of regional West African organisations?”. The idea is to leave behind the traditional model of analysis reserved for experts and decision-makers, and move towards an open forum where all can contribute on subjects of general interest that directly affect every country in the region, with an intent to seek solutions. But the WATHI debate is only one of the headings on the site. There is also the “Passerelle” (Footbridge) section, which is designed to share knowledge and perspectives from one generation to the next, with in-depth interviews with people who are well-known or not so well-known, who have had a professional and personal life that is particularly rich in experience. Each of the headings is a specific way of disseminating knowledge and provoking an in-depth analysis of our societies.


You can also take part in WATHI’s discussions and analyses on solutions to the challenges faced by Africa in the 21st century by logging on to the website!

Conversation with Ayanda Booi, a young Enko recruit with grit, heart & art

As part of its social responsibility policy, Enko funds the tuition fees of a number of deserving students in each of its schools. Last November Enko organised a selection session with World Vision, an NPO that works with communities to improve children’s well-being. They were helped by Ayanda Booi, a youngster who has created an NPO to help young people in the township through performing arts workshops. The selected students visited Enko Ferndale on the 9th of March, to get an impression of their future school. We asked Ayanda, who has now joined Enko headquarters, to tell us more about his career, his commitment to the Orange Farm Township youth, and the Enko project.

Can you tell us about where you come from and what you did in Orange Farm?

I originally come from Soweto, but I moved to Orange Farm years ago. Orange Farm is a township south of Soweto, on the road to Bloemfontein. I created my NPO because a lot of youngsters did not do anything after school, there were no facilities where they could be taken care of, so they hung around, and some of them ended up in gangs. In Orange Farm, there is this big issue of Initiation Schools, where kids are abducted at a very young age from their parents who are then asked to pay tuition for initiation school. But these illegal schools are the pathway to gangsterism. I wanted to offer an alternative. As I have always been passionate about performing arts, I started an organisation in 2015. I thought teaching performing arts to them would also allow them to develop their life skills. We had workshops where we would study dance, music, poetry, drama. The big challenge was to find spaces where we could gather and practice. We often practised in dumping spaces, as there were no other places we could meet. As of January 2017, we had 84 kids aged from 6 to 18 years old in our organization, at three main locations. As performing arts are not very popular with boys, I had mainly girls. Boys in the townships are more interested in football… Over the two years we have been operating, I have been developing partnerships and joint events with other NPOs to give a chance to my kids to perform in front of audiences. That is how I met with the people of World Vision.

How did you hear about Enko?

The people from World Vision told me about the Enko selection tests for scholarships to Enko Ferndale, for students in grade 7/8/9. I looked at the prerequisites, asked my kids for their (grade) reports and I sent the pupils that could qualify. I had ten kids, but two of them had parents who would not let them try the test. So, World Vision helped me organize transport for eight kids to where the examinations were held. I guess Enko did not realise how attractive their offer was. There were 135 kids attending the session! The test consisted of written tests in English, science and mathematics. Pupils who achieved high scores in these tests had an interview with an Enko representative. As I had helped with the process, I was asked to come and help them to finalize the selection. 15 kids were selected and awarded a scholarship to attend Enko Ferndale. I had to go to the families, explain to them how it would work and then interview them and send the report back to Enko. I act as the “liaison officer” with the families.

Tell me about the event on 9 March?

The event theme was “unlocking your potential”. It was a pre-orientation day at Enko Ferndale. It was difficult for them to realise that they will be only starting in September. We took them to visit the school. They were able to see how it looks like. They had a lesson there. They even got to learn some French which they repeated enthusiastically! They came to the headquarters afterwards . They met Enko’s heads of school and staff. They had career talks with young professionals. They quite enjoyed their day!

What would be the best education to unlock youth potential? Engage the conversation! Let us know your ideas and discover Enko Education.