A few weeks back, while I was going about my usual weekend shopping for foodstuffs, I met this eloquent little girl of about twelve years old. As she attended to me on behalf of her mum – who was nowhere in sight, I was taken aback by her composure and strangely, her ability to speak fluent English. For a moment I wondered what her life was like. She obviously had attained a form of education – probably not the best but she did seem really smart.

It is not uncommon to find twelve-year olds’ who are grammatically proficient; however, this was a micro-market in front of a house that was in a very poor condition. In an area that would pass for a rural community within a semi-urban environment, I most definitely wasn’t expecting it. A part of me was moved into adopting her as a sister and ensuring that she received the best education, thus attaining the height of her potential. But, I wondered how many future leaders exist in much more impoverished parts of Africa.

I figured that there were probably a lot like her, stuck in this period, without too many opportunities for innovation. I mean, it is not that these kids are damned – a good number advance to becoming great men and women. In fact, albeit the poor economic and environmental conditions, some of these unique kids do not let their backgrounds define them. Truth be told, it was worse than it is now. Education, in whatever form, was once not just a luxury but almost a fable. Although the public educational system still has too many kids crammed up in classes, free education is a reality in many parts of Africa.

I, however, cannot help but wonder if the same was once the case of the developed western countries. Was there a time where American or Asian kids were stuck in a bubble of tortoise development of some sort? A time where the opportunities they have now were next to non-existent? Today, an average American teenager is much more enlightened and experienced than the average Nigerian teenager. Not because they were given more efficient brains, but because the environmental factors in place are entirely different. Formal and Informal education, growth and development, and a number of clear differences are responsible for this staggering gap.

Sound education is sadly not enough as starving children cannot read or write. Textbooks do not overrule the need for food and the availability of great teachers will not alter the poor standard of living of these kids – at least in the short run. What is required is really not a selection of a handful of chosen ones or more educational and welfare grants directed at deprived African children. There has to be a wake in the entire system that would force conscious actions of strategic development.

Sustainable measures need to be put in place so that the next hundred generations will be equipped with all that it takes to live beyond limitations. The entire continent depends on this; if not, whatever efforts at development – be it great roads or economic stability, will not stand the test of time. Our future leaders need to be equipped with the skills that will ultimately ensure that they are providers of employment.

Failure to tackle this deficit will deprive a whole generation the opportunities of ending poverty and suffering across Africa. We can only hope that those stuck in this time and age, will make the best out of the limited opportunities available. We would then wait for the day that African kids will have equal opportunities enough to face off those of the western societies, and eventually possess freedom of mind and character to live beyond boundaries.

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