I know many university students and recent graduates in my community. Honestly, sometimes I am disillusioned. Many of these girls are from families who have invested so much to get them through school and into university. These girls have studied so hard to persevere through their studies and to graduate. It breaks my heart to see them unable to find a good job even years after graduating. It’s not just that there are few jobs. It’s also that many do not have the skills that employers are looking for, or which they need to set up a profitable business themselves. 

This is what got me involved in youth work. The education they are gaining isn’t enough. Perhaps we could say that it is even setting them up to fail.

Youth Worker – Nigeria

We know that many schools focus on girls passing exams, and many do not even have the resources to do this. Youth work doesn’t focus on exams but on what is known as informal and non-formal learning.

Non-formal learning:

  • Is embedded in planned activities not explicitly designated as learning (in terms of learning objectives, learning time, or learning support);
  • Is intentional from the learner’s point of view;
  • May be validated and lead to certification;
  • Is sometimes described as semi-structured learning.

These could include structured mentoring programmes, craft or sports sessions, or structured volunteering and leadership programmes.

Informal learning:

Informal learning is learning that results from daily activities related to work, family or leisure. It is not organised or structured in terms of objectives, time or learning support. This is the type of experience from which we typically forget that we have learned something important. For this reason, informal learning is also referred to as experiential or incidental/random learning. Examples of informal learning include informal mentoring, preparing meals together, outdoor or indoor play (for example, singing and sports activities), and could include older girls helping younger girls to learn something over a coffee. These activities teach us a lot about ourselves – our strengths and weaknesses. These activities also teach us soft skills. Often, we take this learning for granted, which means that we aren’t supporting young women to see that they aren’t just learning to cook, or sharing a coffee, but building skills in planning, communication or leadership.

Reflection Questions

  1. What informal learning activities have you done in the last week? What have you learnt?
  2. What non-formal learning activities have you done in the last week? What have you learnt?
  3. In your youth activities, what opportunities are there for young women to learn informally and non-formally?

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