Violence against Egyptian women has received extensive coverage in the newspapers, accompanied by numerous online testimonials. Without looking too closely at the headlines, the sheer volume of stories might have led a casual observes to believe that the media had taken a keen interest in observing the everyday life of Egypt’s street children. In fact, one would have been justified in concluding that there was now an acknowledgement of the prevalence and near normality of sexual violence that very young children live through in towns and cities here every night.
Children & Youth
When I first arrived in Sana’a in early 2012, I met with many segments of Yemeni society; including political leaders, civil society organizations, youth, and women leaders and, of course, the new government. From the conversations I had, it was clear that education was always foremost on everyone’s mind.
In Libya right now, one out of every two people is 24 years old or younger (52 percent).
One out of every two fighters was previously unemployed or a student (52 percent).
Why does this matter?
Since my last trip to Tripoli in April, the unfolding conflict has brought these numbers to life. At the time, opportunities were emerging, which I’ll return to in a bit. The current conflict notwithstanding, it was clear at the time that Libya has immense potential due to its natural resources and unique geography.
Half of today’s world population is under 25 years old. The growing share of young men and women globally has not yet reached its peak and will continue to increase over the next two decades. Eradicating poverty will not be possible if the needs of this young cohort are not treated with careful attention. In the coming 10 years, 47 million jobs will be needed - nearly 400,000 jobs per month - in order to absorb the young generation into the workforce. The challenge is too great to be treated with a business-as-usual approach, and no individual stakeholder alone is capable of offering a comprehensive solution.
Djibouti does not make the headlines as often as its larger neighbors Somalia, Eritrea, and Ethiopia –or Yemen, just across the Gulf of Aden. As children go back to school this month, the small, French speaking country deserves our attention as it works to overcome serious education challenges with a committed group of partners including the World Bank.
The numbers are staggering. Almost one third of the populations of Algeria and Morocco are under the age of 15, with Tunisia following close behind. This ‘youth bulge’ is placing immense pressure on the education systems of the Maghreb.
The Middle East and North Africa region is on the front lines of climate change. According to the World Bank report Turn Down the Heat: Why a 4 ͦ C Warmer World Must be Avoided (WB, 2012), the region is steadily getting hotter and drier. Of the 19 countries that set new national temperature highs in 2010, the warmest year globally since records were first kept in the 1800s, five were Arab states.
It was once located on the grounds of the Uruguayan Embassy in Lebanon, and the name has somehow stuck. Now, Uruguay Elementary School is in a new building in an altogether different, bustling area of Beirut. It is hard to recognize it as a school at first: a seven-story building among other tall offices and manufacturing plants beside a major thoroughfare.
With newspaper headlines focused on violence and political upheavals across the Middle East and North Africa region, it is easy to forget that an annual beginning is also underway. Children from the Mashreq to the Maghreb have started going back to school. Parents are buying school supplies for little ones and millions of teenagers are going down a path that may shape their future careers. This week, Voices and Views presents Back to School 2013 - a series focused on the challenges that both teachers and students face in the region, and the policies and programs that can change a generation.
Peer learning has great potential as an effective tool for sharing knowledge and good practice. For it to work, the right environment is needed; one that is conducive to learning and knowledge-sharing. In a recent case in Georgia, however, it all came down to the right crowd, a great host and relevant experiences. Good food and nice weather may also have helped some.