BY MACHEL WAIKENDA
The decision to mainstream the youth agenda across all government ministries and departments is not only welcome but if properly executed, it will go a long way in resolving the challenges facing the youth in our country.
The greatest obstacles to youth led sustainable development in our country has predominantly been poor education system, inadequate policy frame work and strategies, poor implementation mechanism of policies, strategies and plans that focused on youth among others.
But the greatest of all is the lack of means by our young people created by inefficient policy frameworks which then subject the youth into poverty, effectively making them impotent in the face of many other challenges.
The tradition in Kenya, which I am certain the Jubilee government will throw away, has been that government structures don’t support young initiatives and actions about sustainable development.
For successive governments, such structure assume that young people are not idle, irresponsible and are only useful in political situations.
But even worse, because of diverse political affiliations young people subscribe to, successive governments have continuously kept the youth at disadvantaged levels, the old didn’t want to give young people an opportunity and stay in power longer than they are expected because the young people themselves refused to speak in one voice.
Therefore going forward, we need to have the youth speaking the same language which is well researched, demand based, with rights based approach not calculated to govern rather educated to take the lead.
Going forward, we need to give priority to policies and programmes including youth advocacy and peer-to-peer programmes for marginalized youths, such as out-of school and out-of-work youths, to offer them the opportunity and motivation to re-integrate into mainstream society.
Clearly, we must develop macroeconomic policies that focus on job creation particularly for youth and for young women to foster greater linkages between the labour market and the education and training system to ensure that curriculum are aligned to the needs of the labour market and that youth are being trained in fields where employment opportunities are available or are growing.
There is a yearning need to change the working habit of our people, we must learn to identify and develop entrepreneurial skills starting from childhood.
As we break from the past, we need to have a Kenyan vision for the youth first, we need government plans to involve those simple men and women to know and comment on that policy. We need legislations that strengthen these initiatives.
This is why mainstreaming the youth agenda across government ministries and departments as suggested by the president is a bankable way of getting the youth out of this difficult situation.
When announcing the second group of cabinet secretaries, President Uhuru Kenyatta said that there will be no ministries in charge of youth and women, and that their issues will be mainstreamed into line ministries.
Looking at the functions of the ministry of youth affairs it is not difficult to see duplication of roles performed by other ministries. The ministry has eight thematic themes, namely: Youth education and training, Youth and health, Youth and environment, Youth crime and drugs, Youth leisure, recreation and community service, Youth and ICT, Youth empowerment and participation and Youth and employment.
The thematic area of youth and education encompasses youth polytechnics, scattered across the country. The department of youth training, which is responsible for youth polytechnics, can conveniently be placed under the ministry of education. Indeed the curriculum used in these polytechnics was developed by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, an agency under the ministry of education.
The thematic area of youth and employment is implemented through the Youth Enterprise Development Fund. The Fund could comfortably fit under the ministry of enterprise development. I have also noted that one of the functions of the Youth Enterprise Development Fund is to facilitate youth to get jobs abroad. This function can be amplified and placed under either the Ministry of foreign affairs or the ministry of labour, so that the Fund can concentrate on entrepreneurship.
All the other thematic areas are functions of other ministries as can be discerned from their names. They would fit comfortably in ministries such as education, sports, labour, and health among others.
The government will need to come up with a mechanism of mainstreaming youth issues into line ministries. The president has already stated that he will establish a youth advisory function in his office. This function, working with the National Youth Council, could come up with youth focused indicators that other ministries would be required to implement.
The dilemma may now seem to be who will play the reference role that the ministry of youth affairs played. Many youth desiring service from government departments would walk into a youth office for direction. Who will play this role?
A possible way forward is to empower the National Youth Council, which the government actualized last year and have the council reporting to the president.
The council should also take up infrastructure that had been put up by the ministry, such as youth empowerment centres.
In order to empower the Youth Fund to play a bigger role in empowering young entrepreneurs and therefore creating employment, the government will need to focus on it, with a view to dealing with the challenges that limit its effectiveness.
South Africa has recorded some progress in black economic empowerment. Kenya could use the same model to mainstream youth issues. Is it possible? Of course. Why not?
(The writer is the TNA Director of Communications)