NEARLY half of all young women in Zambia and Ghana cannot read a simple sentence even after six years of schooling, a latest World Bank report has stated.
And the World Bank has urged developing countries to invest in better education, healthcare, and job training for their young people aged between 12 and 24 years, if they were to register surging economic growth and sharply reduced poverty.
According to the latest World Development Report: Development and the next Generation released at the on-going International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Annual Meetings in Singapore, delivering quality education to young people remains a key challenge facing governments in the developing world.
The World Bank report advised governments in developing countries to invest more in their young people, or risk dealing with social tensions and dropping behind in the global economy. The report further stated that with 1.3 billion young people now living in the developing world - estimated the largest ever youth group in history - the report states there has never been a better time to invest in the youth.
"Such large numbers of young people living in developing countries present great opportunities, but also risks," François Bourguignon, the World Bank's Chief Economist and Senior Vice-President for Development Economics said at the launch of the report.
"The opportunities are great, as many countries will have a larger, more skilled labour force and fewer dependants. But these young people must be well-prepared in order to create and find good jobs."
He stated that the first thing was to immediately make sure the educational process was okay and that progress which has been made in the last decades in primary schooling are continued and expanded.
The World Development Report points out that the lack of quality education was not the only challenge facing young people but that 13 million adolescent girls gave birth each year while nearly half of all new HIV infections involved the youth.
Other challenges are that of all global unemployment, nearly half is among young people with unemployment rates for the youth being two to three times more than those of adults. Also highlighted was that over 300,000 young people under the age of 18 have been involved in armed conflict in more than 30 countries worldwide.
And World Bank's Emmanuel Jimenez and Mamta Murthi, two of the co-authors of the 2007 report, stated that they discovered through extensive consultations with young people around the globe that youths want more of a voice in their future.
"Young people often felt that they were treated as risky agents, whereas they would like to be seen as agents of change - agents who can bring enormous energy and enthusiasm to the business of nation building," Murthi, co-author of the report said.
But Jimenez, director of the report observed that developing countries only have a small window of opportunity open to them if they want to seize the potential offered by the largest ever youth group in history.
"Young people will be entering the labour market at a time when they have fewer dependants," said Jimenez. "Now that means there'll be more people working relative to those who are not working. But this window of opportunity will last only about 40 years for many countries, because at some point the population will age."
He said there was need to broaden opportunities beyond primary school.
"One is to provide more school places at secondary and even tertiary level. But also important is to make sure that the quality that is being provided is high enough to enable the graduates to be able to compete in the global labour market," said Jimenez. Murthi noted that there were 113 million young people in the world who did not have the basic skill of literacy and that there was a lot governments could do to actually make these young people literate.Source: The Post (Lusaka)