Malala Day in East Africa: Young Burundians are expressing excitement for Malala Day!
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This article is written by Salathiel Ntakirutimana, who comes from Burundi and is a member of the Global Education First Initiative Youth Advocacy Group (GEFI-YAG).
Photo: (From left to right): Salathiel Ntakirutimana,
Higher Life Foundation Country Manager, and Assistant Minister of
Education of Burundi
20 June 2013 - Over the weeklong period I spent in Burundi
working on what I baptized my Malala Day Canvass, I had great
opportunities to engage and work with Malala Day stakeholders
including youth-led groups and organizations working on different
youth programs. For anyone who is new to Malala Day, July 12
marks the 16th birthday of Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl
who was nearly assassinated by the Taliban because of her strong
voice in the fight for girls’ education. On July 12, young people
around the world will join Malala at the United Nations
Headquarters in New York to deliver the first-ever set of
education policy recommendations written by youth, for
In the four days that I spent in Burundi, I met with high level government officials including the Assistant Minister of Education, a group of representatives from the Ministry of Youth and leaders from various local and international NGOs including the RET (Foundation for the Refugee Education Trust) and Higher Life Foundation Burundi. Additionally, Youth Globe representatives met with other executives and representatives of NGOs such as FOCODE (Forum pour la Conscience et le Développement) and CPAJ (Collectif pour la Promotion des Associations des Jeunes). It was highly satisfying to see the warmth with which public/private and local/global non-profit organizations welcomed Malala Day in Burundi. Within the different youth groups and organizations I engaged with, opportunities like Malala Day restored their confidence in a global leadership system they could not believe in anymore. Most importantly, these young people appreciated the creation of a youth assembly platform and its potential to take far the real concerns of youth.
Nearly all my interactions with young Burundians could be summarized in the statement: “Enough! Astronomical illiteracy levels, lack of opportunities, poverty, etc.in our communities is enough!” There was a clear conviction that young people need to be involved in planning and working for better solutions to their communities’ problems. The eagerness my fellow young Burundians are showing for Malala Day is a clear signal of our readiness to lead the momentum towards sustainable solutions to many of the problems our country has consistently faced.
Whilst highly enthusiastic for the opportunity presented by the upcoming youth assembly, many young people debated why it took so long for world leaders to realize that alienating one of the largest segments of those affected by their decisions would not ensure long term sustainable development for all. Most importantly, some justifiably questioned the extent to which current policy makers will take seriously the “asks” of youth, which will be presented to global leaders on Malala Day.
To the young people I interacted with, the upcoming youth assembly and its resulting Youth Resolution constitute an event and a document that leaders should take seriously if they truly are serving current and future generations. In my conversation with one of the recent Burundian returnees from a Tanzania-based refugee camp whom I will call Stella, she could not agree more. To Stella, Malala Day represents not only a great global platform for youth to express their most pressing educational and societal concerns, but most importantly, it is anopportunity for young people to appreciate, learn from and be inspired by the admirable sacrifice Malala Yousafzai made in her fight for more educational opportunities for the girl child.
The long journey to youth recognition and involvement in decision-making has started. I, along with my peers in Burundi and many other corners of the globe, welcome this development. Our futures, as well as those of the 57 million out of school children around the world demand urgent attention from decision makers and action from all of us. As of now, our youth voice can only go so far. We need others to partner with us. Nonetheless, we will use our collective voice to denounce inaction and hold accountable all decision makers who do not recognize the importance of education as the key to a better future. While we appreciate opportunities to express our concerns, we request leaders to give these concerns the attention they deserve. There can be no leadership failure greater than ignoring the voices of youth around the world. It is this belief that sparked so much youth enthusiasm for Malala Day in Burundi.