In my Quaker high school, George School, we were taught all of our subjects within the framework of believing the world and society can be different. George School seeks to develop citizen scholars committed to openness in the pursuit of truth, to service and peace, and to the faithful stewardship of the earth.
This education I received, combined with the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam(healing the world), with which I was raised, as well as the never ending support from my family, friends, colleagues and classmates from all around the world, has helped me understand the urgency for us to act and think globally, with concern for all beings on the earth. Throughout my journey, I have come to the conclusion to have that idealistic “peace on earth” all religions, cultures and people call for, we must give everyone the tools to succeed. This is done through education.
My life’s path has taken me to Africa, where about 65% of the total population is below the age of 35 years, Over 35% are between 15 and 35 years old, which makes Africa the youngest continent. According to the African Union Youth Commission, about 10 million young African youth arrive each year on the labor market. Imagine the power of that workforce if everyone had basic literacy and numeracy skills, or appropriate job training relevant to the environment they are in.
I wish I could simply cite the simple, yet often idealistic, Quaker values of sharing, peace, love, healing the world, etc., to answer this question of why we need to invest in education in Africa. Instead, I have come up with three concrete reasons why this investment will positively affect the average American.
1)Terrorism– Like we saw during the ebola crisis our world is interconnected and issues in Africa can have effects at home. People in Africa can communicate with those all over the world, for the good and the bad. Terrorists in Africa are being trained and inspired by groups like ISIS, seeing attacks in Paris, Bamako, and more as inspiration for new ways to harm Americans abroad. Some may say it is too late to reverse the effects of extremism in the Middle East region, but in Africa, we still have the chance to save the next generation through education and empowerment. Increasing skills for young Africans will help them make better choices about joining extremist movements, and allow them to focus their priorities on developing their economic futures.
2)Climate change– People in Dakar these days know climate change is real, as we are living one of history’s hottest “winter” months here in Senegal. Even though Africa’s carbon footprint is smaller than the West’s, considering its rapid urban development, we are on a dangerous path to increase global warming if Africa’s development pattern is the same of that as the US and Europe. Education now for Africans on the ground will help awaken a generation to better environmental and urban planning practices which will help mitigate pollution and thus the effects of global warming.
3)Encouraging domestic economic growth. Witney Schneidman wrote in the 2013 Brookings report entitled The Top Five Reasons Africa Should be a Priority for the United States , that increased trade and business done in Africa has the potential to add hundreds of thousands of jobs to the American economy. For this to be a success for Americans at home, their trade partners need to be savvy, intelligent, and equipped with the know how to foster an atmosphere favorable to economic growth. For us to improve our own economy, we must rely on others.
I realize as Americans we have our own priorities and our own crises to manage. As the United States decides who will be the next president, I urge everyone to understand the complexities of our domestic problems, and how investing in others is also investing in solutions to our biggest concerns. Of course it is important to act locally, but we must always think globally.