BY MACHEL WAIKENDA
Several events have brought out the reality of youth unemployment in Kenya, and its current and future consequences.
The youth unemployment problem is actually visible in the urban areas and replicated the rural villages. The most striking is the stark contrasts on how communities and individuals have dealt with this thorny issue.
The media has presented cases of youth who have been job seeking for over ten years, some that have slid into crime and other deviant behavior, such as the female youth who have been engaging in prostitution and other immoral acts.
Needless to say, there is no justification to engage in crime or other criminal acts citing joblessness. Commendably, there have also been cases of stoic endurance and creativity; stories of youth who have shown resilience.
They have refused to accept defeat and to give in to the guillotine of unemployment. They have chosen to get into entrepreneurship, some of them starting extremely small and patiently working their way up.
This second category of youth has great lessons to share with the first. They strengthen the belief that individual choice and endurance can shape one’s destiny.
This is amplified by government policies that provide emerging opportunities to place the youths as the major beneficiaries of Jubilee Government red carpet.
Whereas we need to blame ourselves as society for having failed the youth by not foreseeing the unemployment crisis coming, we also need to critically analyze the role the individual will play to create their own space, and the impact socialization and education have had on individuals.
For a start none of the choices the youth have made is easy. Crime, prostitution and entrepreneurship are all fraught with risk.
What then determines the risk that the individual chooses to take? I think it has to do with the strength of one’s moral character, patience, and the value one attaches to life.
Those who chose entrepreneurship do it knowing the returns are small, but patiently hoping and working to grow them. We should desist from the urge for quick fixes.
I want to invite the youth to realise that the greatest determinant of success is the individual.
Many times society has chained us to old expectations that hinder our progress. Whereas the education system and curriculum may have posed serious challenges in preparing our youth for the world outside school, our youth may need to start diverting rigid attention from white collar jobs.
Educational advancement through established technical colleges and other tertiary level of education is a prerequisite for our young people to effectively equip themselves with the knowhow of business dynamics and competence.
Those who venture out are able to start small in unfamiliar neighborhoods because they are not held back by cultural inhibitions that perceive informal jobs negatively. We must now train our youth to stop looking for jobs, and be major drivers in job creation through innovative ideas.
Fortunately, the government has provided the Youth Enterprise Fund to finance youth groups and other projects. Additionally, Jubilee manifesto has reserved 30 per cent of the government to the youths.
Our youth also need to learn the value of starting small. Many youth are held back by a desire to start large businesses.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that they have the skills to manage enterprises at the level they want to start, or that anyone will trust them with the kind of capital the enterprise will demand. It is not where you start that is important; it is where you go after starting.
Government has numerous opportunities for youth, including facilities such as the Youth Enterprise Development Fund, and opportunities for skills training.
Whereas government has responsibility to educate citizens on its services it would also be prudent that citizens are proactive in seeking government services. I challenge our youth to begin seeing government as a partner, and to engage its officers at the grassroots so that they may be informed on new developments.
In my humble submission, I urge our youth to ensure that they join groupings that connect them to gainful networks.
The writer is the TNA Director of Communications and Secretary of Arts and Entertainment, and a Board member of the World Youth Parliament. Twitter @MachelWaikenda