Network for Youth in Transition


Youth and Non-Formal Education and Community Involvement

Original Source: UN Youth Flash, Vol. 8, No.6, June 2011

Education, generally understood as a life long process, is delivered through several channels that are interdependent and complimentary. UNESCO defines formal education as the hierarchically structured, chronologically graded, educational system running from primary through to tertiary institutions. Informal education is the process whereby every individual acquires attitudes, values, skills and knowledge from daily experience, such as from family, friends, peer groups, the media and other influences and factors in the person’s environment.

Non-formal education (NFE) is an organised educational activity outside the established formal system that is intended to serve an identifiable learning clientele with identifiable learning objectives.  Non-formal education can be delivered by governments, UN agencies, trade unions, sports clubs and national institutions but the biggest provider of NFE remain youth organizations, especially volunteer-led youth NGOs, which base their educational programmes on equality, diversity and responsible global citizenship. The importance of non-formal education, as generally practised by youth NGOs and other providers, results from the specific characteristics that are intrinsic to it and which are, to a large extent, not present in either formal or informal education.

Non-formal education, as provided by youth organizations such as the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) ensures a holistic approach to educating and empowering young people. Non-formal education not only complements the formal education provided by schools, it can also make up for shortfalls in formal education. It can involve topics not covered by school curricula, such as sexual and reproductive health, and it can also step in when formal education is difficult to access.

WAGGGS is the largest voluntary movement dedicated to girls and young women in the world operating with ten million Girl Guides and Girl Scouts from 145 countries across the globe. Through its Member Organizations and through working directly with girls and young women, WAGGGS delivers high quality non-formal educational programmes and international opportunities that provide girls and young women dynamic, flexible and values-based training in life skills, leadership and citizenship.

2011 is the centenary year of WAGGGS. There are more than 140 Centenary Ambassadors around the world working hard to shape the centenary celebrations for their Associations and for WAGGGS.  Lilian Itenya is a Centenary Ambassador and young leader with the Kenya Girl Guide Association.  A Girl Guide since age 11, and now 25 years old, Lilian represents other young leaders on Kenya’s National Council and Executive Committee. Lilian has been marking the centenary with the Kenya Girl Guide Association (KGGA), and this year is spearheading the project ‘Panties with a Purpose’.

“We are calling people to donate panties and sanitary products to underprivileged girls who cannot afford them. Every month a girl misses 156 lessons in school because she cannot afford either a panty or sanitary towels. Every panty we receive means we can offer girls a packet of sanitary towels. We have a box in our Association where we collect donations.”

As an administrative assistant in a private medical clinic, helping support the health and education of girls is important to Lilian. Through the project girls can now attend school lessons, which they otherwise would have missed.

This year, says Lilian, one of the main focuses is to grow, create awareness and change lives by working with schools, participating in community projects and attending camping events.

“We plan to run a centenary camp from 7 – 10 April 2011, have a Caravan in August, and hold the Kenya National Forum at the Kimalel Camp. This year we’re launching a centenary exhibition and running it at our camp in Nyeri. It will help grow Guiding and create awareness of our centenary celebrations – music will attract young women to come over, it will be a way of giving out information and sharing all the activities we do. The National Forum will be a gathering for young women and it will be in August, a month where we celebrate International Youth Day. We’ll be talking about the Millennium Development Goals, sharing our activities and raising interest in Guiding. We will be making greetings cards and T-shirts to take to the event.”

The 2010 centenary theme of Plant also helped shape many of last year’s activities for Lilian and the KGGA.

“Last year we young leaders planted trees at Nairobi Pentecostal Academy, visited the Starehe Girls Secondary School and shared the Global Action Theme with them. We planted trees, sang Guiding songs, danced and shared friendly messages. We visited the Kibera Girls Centre, where we shared a lot on planting peace as women. We played, cooked with the girls, and the young women donated clothes to the centre. On International Women’s Day in 2010 we talked about planting peace, as women are important peace makers in society. When there is instability in a country it’s the women who suffer so it starts with us, from our homes and our communities. We said peace is not only absence of war but also of misunderstandings between people and we told them how women in Liberia bestowed peace in their country.”

Lilian is passionate and excited about her work with the Kenya Girl Guide Association and the impact these projects have within her community.

“As we celebrate 100 years in the three years, and head towards 2012, we should be able to reflect on the impact of our programmes and activities. They make a difference in our lives and since our lives have changed, we want to make a difference in other people’s lives. This year we grow Guiding and change lives.

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