I am Folabit Lena Novel and I am the vice president of the All-Africa Students Unions (AASU) for the Central African region. For the past four years, I have worked with my organization to promote student rights, including ensuring that students across the continent have access to quality education, equal and equitable access to higher education, etc. I believe that young people should be motivated to develop an entrepreneurial spirit to fight unemployment in Africa and in my country Cameroon in particular. I hold a Bachelor's degree in Education from the University of Buea, Cameroon, a Master's degree in University Governance and Development of Local Institutions from the University of Yaoundé II-Soa, Cameroon, and currently am a doctoral student in Higher Education at the University of Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa. I represent AASU at the Global Student Forum (GSF) as a steering committee member. At GSF, I work on Education for All and Membership.
What are the causes that are important for you and the youth today and why?
Leadership, access to quality education, and youth unemployment. I think these three aspects are intertwined because a failure of one will lead to adverse consequences for the others.
Firstly, in a society where we have seat-tight leaders, these leaders will rather protect their leadership position, instead of building the education system of the nation which is the backbone of every nation’s developmental trajectory.
Secondly, if the youths are not able to have access to a quality education because of lack of infrastructure, the education system is not producing the skills for the labour market, mismatch priorities (a situation where curriculum does not meet societal demands) then it will lead to-
Third, the unemployment of youths. These young people account for the largest population, especially in Africa with the largest concentration of young people. Commonly, everybody has an opinion on unemployment in the country as one of the root causes of all our social problems (juvenile felonies, theft, drug abuse, etc.).
What is your advice for young people who want to make a positive impact? How should they begin?
I think young people are already taking the bull by the horn by creating different regional platforms that are helping them to build their capacity to contribute to the growth of society. The challenge I believe they should be facing is acceptance, trust, and confidence in their abilities to build a society of young enlightened citizens who can stand up and make a change.
What would you like to tell decision-makers?
First and foremost, the stakeholders know what the young people expect and need from them. But I am going to reiterate by mentioning that the youths are desperate to be involved in the discussion table. Let the stakeholders give them a voice to express themselves.
(Photo courtesy: Folabit Lena Novel; copyright: Folabit Lena Novel)