In 1964 during the School Student Union of Norway’s annual meeting, a young man boldly stated that “it’s wrong to merely work for improved conditions at our own schools when youth in other countries do not even have the opportunity to go to school”. This statement laid the foundation for Operation Day’s Work (ODW), which is currently the largest youth campaign in Norway.
52 years later, ODW has supported education projects in more than 60 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin-America. ODW has carried out projects in various areas, but prefers to focus on education as representing “the best road to sustainable development.” Knowledge is power, and ODW also questions the “sometimes simplistic and occasionally damaging presentation of the situation in Africa, Asia and South America, in the Norwegian public domain”.
This year, vi ar alle oljebarn is bringing focus to the world’s biggest oil disaster: Nigeria’s Niger-Delta. Working with Environmental Rights Action, a local NGO which for 25 years has been active on environmental issues in the area, a three pronged approach will be taken to better the prospects of youth in the Niger Delta.
- Young people will be informed about their rights and how to articulate their demands
- 10,000 ‘oil workers’ will be trained to watch over their communities. They will learn how to sound alarms about new oil spills, and how to prevent the contamination from spreading. They will act as watchdogs over the oil companies, monitoring their activities and keeping them accountable to effective clean-up activities.
- Community youth will also be provided with practical skills, so they can create ‘new, environmentally friendly jobs which will provide income, thereby reducing unemployment and poverty. This third approach will simultaneously make renewable energy available so families can have electricity and cooking fuel.
ODW is funded by Norwegian students who choose to work rather than go to school on the annual ODW day, and then donate their wages to the ODW project. They make their choices based on understanding which is gained from an information campaign carried out during the international week (a week in October when schools focus on global issues like poverty and inequality).
While in 1964 Norwegian students earned 12 000 USD which was channelled into the reconstruction of school buildings in Algeria, about 100,000 youth are today earning 3,5 million USD for projects in developing countries.
The Royal Norwegian Embassy in Abuja is happy that this fantastic initiative by young people in Norway is this year, going towards the benefit of our host country Nigeria. We are optimistic that the project will indeed make a difference in Niger Delta communities.