In Photos: Juba Technical High School, 2013 by Espen Eichhöfer.
Located in the capital city of the continent’s youngest country, Juba Technical High School (JTHS) is the only one of its kind in the South Sudan. It offers three years of high school course work and technical studies after which students who graduate are prepared to further their studies at a tertiary institution. As of 2011, 25% of the student body were girls.
At a time where in Nigeria, Boko Haram has and continues to threaten access to education for many in the north of the country, and as the crisis in South Sudan worsens, I can’t help but worry about how misplaced the ‘Africa rising’ rhetoric in the media is today - especially in regards to prospects and opportunities for African youth based in Africa. When we live on a continent where 65% of us are below the age of 35, and over 35% are between the ages of 15 and 35 years, but access to quality education is a constant and at times overwhelming battle for many, where does that leave the future of our continent? In instances where some have access to education, the difference in quality between public and private institutions is highly disturbing and a serious cause for concern.
Despite reports of economic progress from all over the continent, unemployment rates in many African nations still remains high and especially so in the youth bracket. The many natural resource-based industries we celebrate such as oil and mining produce few jobs for locals with multinational corporations often favouring foreign employers for high-level positions.
After reading Adichie’s Americanah and, more recently, watching the web series An African City, I became increasingly frustrated with the singular diaspora returnee rhetoric that seems to paint a picture of near immediate employment success for those of us that return home. For many who do not have the benefit of dual citizenship or connections, by way of nepotism, the job landscape in many African countries remains brutal, regardless of your qualifications. I know far too many young qualified Africans, living on the continent, who remain unemployed and often underemployed. As push comes to shove, the best alternative is to seek or further ones education abroad using that as a segue to starting life in a place where the pastures are hopefully greener - something more stringent immigration policies worldwide make all the more difficult, leaving us with fewer and fewer opportunities and options.
Whether or not African governments will rise to the occasion and address this urgent situation of education and youth employment that some have deemed a potential ‘ticking time bomb' remains to be seen. Restless and increasingly frustrated youth with none or very little access to basic resources is, to put it very casually, not a good look for the continent.
Further reading: Africa’s youth: a “ticking time bomb” or an opportunity?