UNESCO and Japan commit to social stability in the Sahel

While the COVID-19 pandemic and the insecurity in some regions of the Sahel undermine the hope of a better future for the youth of Burkina Faso, the Government of Japan and the UNESCO Regional Office for West Africa-Sahel signed an agreement on 3 March 2021.

This agreement aims to implement the project “Support for social stability through education and vocational training for out-of-school youths following the security and health crises in the Sahel and Eastern regions of Burkina Faso”, funded by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Since the end of May 2020, the number of internally displaced people in Burkina Faso has reached 920,000, a figure that has increased by 64% since the beginning of the year, according to UNHCR data. Population displacement restricts the ability of children to attend school. The USAID report conducted in May 2020 reports that in all localities in northern Burkina Faso, key informants indicated that a majority of the population did not have access to functional educational services within walking distance during the previous month. This was either because schools were closed by decision of the authorities (74%) or because teachers were displaced (24%) or teachers stopped working (1%). The same study reports that 29% of children aged 7 to 17 years were left without any kinds of activities, including leisure activities.


With the closure of schools imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of out-of-school students, generally quite high, has increased, with a negative social and economic impact on young people, and particularly in terms of employability. Without the opportunity to develop a meaningful activity for themselves and thus build their future, these young people are easy targets for recruitment by jihadist groups, hence the importance of urgent action to stop this process.


In this context and in order to prevent violent extremism, the project “Support for social stability through education and vocational training for out-of-school youths following the security and health crises in the Sahel and Eastern regions of Burkina Faso” aims to enable young people who are not in school and who have no perspective for the future to find their way back to school or to employment during the course of 2021.

Through this initiative, out-of-school youth will be able to access education and/or training, thanks to vocational training institutions and “bridging centers” identified by the Ministry of National Education and Literacy, the Ministry of Youth and the Promotion of Youth Entrepreneurship, and the Ministry of Higher Education, Scientific Research and Innovation of Burkina Faso.

Indeed, the project aims to empower young people aged 18 to 24 with the relevant skills to secure employment or self-employment, to act responsibly in the context of COVID-19, and as actors for peace, through the promotion of peace and citizenship education.  Through developing both behavioural and practical skills, this capacity building of young people will contribute to the social stability and economic development of the regions covered.

As part of the UN’s integrated strategy for the Sahel, this project is also in compliance with international commitments in Africa, such as the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD 7) and its priorities as defined in the “New Approach to Peace and Stability in Africa (NAPSA)”, including the promotion of African-led peace-building activities, institution-building and efforts to increase governmental capacity through human resource development. It contributes to the achievement of the SDGs 1, 4, 5, 8, 10, 13 and 16.

This project takes into account the needs, interests and realities of the beneficiaries in order to ensure adequate and relevant changes in the target areas. It is supported by UNESCO’s expertise in the field of vocational training and of the prevention of violent extremism through education (PVE-E).

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