Child and Youth Studies in Africa
This issue of the CODESRIA Bulletin focuses on child and youth studies. All the articles, except the last one by Francis Nyamnjoh, were ‘think pieces’ first presented at an international conference on the theme: ‘New Frontiers of Child and Youth Research in Africa’, held in Douala, Cameroon, on the 26 and 27 August 2009, and attended by scholars actively engaged in research on issues that affect or concern children and youth in Africa.
Child and youth studies have, in the last two decades, experienced significant advances in theory and this has led to remarkable growth in knowledge in this field. Major research has been done in the areas of children’s rights, the characterisation and contexts of child and youth labour, the socio-cultural environment of child and youth socialisation, and the social, political and economic constraints challenging children’s self-development.
The 2009 conference was convened to assess the state of research on child and youth studies in Africa. This meeting was a follow-up to two earlier ones. The first one was a CODESRIAAfrican Studies Centre (Leiden) conference on the theme: ‘Children in Global South: Religion, Politics and the Future of the Youth in Asia, Africa and the Middle East’ held in Dakar in October 2006. At this meeting, it was made clear that despite the advances recorded in child and youth studies in the last two decades, more still needed to be done to get a better understanding of childhoods and youth-hoods in the global South in the context of a globalisation process driven by neo-liberalism. The worldviews of children and young people are being shaped by phenomena in ways that often make them look for role models or aspire to things outside their own societies. With far broader horizons than the youth of previous generations, their aspirations can easily go beyond what the material conditions of the societies where they live in can allow. A strong urge, and in some instances desperate attempts to migrate to the industrialised countries are among the consequences. What this means is a potential lack of faith in the capability of the leaders of African societies to steer our countries towards a better and brighter future, and a reluctance to fully ‘invest’ their energies locally, and contribute to the transformation of our economies and societies: that is postponed until after the hypothetical journey to the industrialised countries, for one purpose or another. Many more young people are leaving the countryside for the towns and cities of Africa, and part of this is happening in organised networks.