This year’s #IYD2019 celebrates the transformative power of education. It seems a curious subject to tackle considering we often overlook the power of education to change the lives of young people and focus instead on festivities that center public officials. But anyone who has struggled to express themselves, knows that education provides a language for self-expression. Self-expression is a vital tool for navigating a changing world, and finding your place in it. So in honour of #IYD2019, I want to celebrate the transformative power of new media. It provides easily accessible educational material, and it provides platforms for young educators to create content relevant to them.
Zuriel Oduwole, if the name doesn’t ring a bell, then you haven’t been listening. Now 17 years old, Oduwole began her career in education when she still a pre-teen, combining her interest in politics and advocacy to build a thriving career as a child advocate for education with several interviews with sitting presidents across the country under her belt. As Zuriel has grown, the scope of her work as an educator and and advocate for child education has increased. So has her following thanks to new media platforms like Youtube. Just 15 years ago, it would have been inconceivable for a child her age to reach so many people. Not without the backing of a major media platform. Such is the transformative power of new media.
Zuriel is only one several hundreds of young Nigerians who are using the reach of new media like Twitter, Youtube, LinkedIn and Facebook to educate their peers, advocate for better access to education and force governments to change policies. The work these young educators create is transformative. Teenagers like Zuriel offer a different kind of perspective on education; they speak about the challenges unique to Africans who live on the continent and Africans in diaspora.
The honesty with which they tackle topics like feminism and sexual assault is refreshing. They are savvy about the platforms on which their peers are most open to new ideas and offer their messages through new media trends like gifs and memes, through podcasting and twitter threads, through Youtube story times and Instagram live videos. They are constantly challenging the status quo, investigating the ‘truths’ they have been told and ensuring they match muster.
There is much work to be done. There are hundreds of millions of young Africans who do not have access to social media or new media and have to depend on traditional media platforms for information and eduation. But there is a bright hope that right now, young people are creating and curating the ideas and information, free of interference and censorship, that this new generation will need to navigate their rapidly changing world.
Edwin Okolo is an author and journalist who has worked with YNaija, TheNativemag and the Naked Convos.