BY MACHEL WAIKENDA
Last week, on this column, I wrote and commended the Jubilee government for its commitment in ensuring that the dream of empowering the youth is alive. One of the areas that I highlighted was the Sh25 billion allocation towards youth employment and re-engineering the National Youth Service as a vehicle for transforming and empowering the youth.
In line with the Jubilee manifesto, the government is committed to revamp and restructure the NYS into a robust and dynamic institution to drive the youth transformation agenda. As I have written before, the revamped NYS is a key ingredient in ensuring that the Kenyan youth are more empowered and play a greater role in the development of the country.
This is because, as I have argued on this column before, the danger of having a large non-working population is that the country may experience rising crime rates that will eventually result in a higher insecurity rates than today.
Therefore, the NYS can be one of those deliberate measures that will boost job creation. Otherwise, we are looking at a potential crisis that will see the country’s future go to the dogs as we witnessed during the 2008 post-election violence.
It is therefore saddening that, this past week, we had to witness deliberate political machination that led to the destruction of one of the projects by the NYS in Kibera. It is sad that there are still politicians that will incite the youth to destroy development projects for political gains.
I must commend the youthful Kibra MP Ken Okoth who has refused to be drawn into this kind of politics and his commitment to having the NYS projects continue. He has made it clear that there has been transformation in his constituency and he would wish to see more.
I must also commend the Devolution Cabinet Secretary Anne Waiguru who acted swiftly when she realised that there were people who were trying to siphon funds from the NYS. The CS acted in the right manner in ensuring that the taxpayer does not lose money and that the dream of transformation is not put in jeopardy.
It is therefore discouraging to see some elected leaders oppose these programs under the pretext that they have not been involved and consulted. While leaders have a role to play in their community, this must not stop the government from initiating programs that directly benefit the youth.
No Kenyan should allow politicians to kill the dream of empowering the Kenyan youth who hold the torch to the country’s prosperity.
The new NYS is a noble idea that must be protected by all Kenyans. Following the three recruitment cycles, the NYS contingent has grown from 6,000 to 31,000 in just slightly over one year. Another 10,935 recruits will be recruited in September 2015, to bring the total to about 42,000.
We must realize that from the NYS policy document, this servicemen and women are not the only ones who are benefiting from the programme. They are working hand in hand with the youth in the communities that they have been deployed in.
For instance, in Kibera, the youth working alongside the NYS have a channel to make money daily and they improve their surroundings. They are receiving more than Sh400 a day working as casual laborer’s – this is even more than others have been getting by walking to Industrial area and doing similar jobs.
We must also avoid been told that the NYS is only working in Kibera. We know that they are also in Mathare, Kisumu and Mombasa, and there are plans to have the new recruits build 1,100 dams and pans each year as well as do mechanized and manual road construction at county level.
The rebranded NYS now operating under the mantra “True to self; True to Country” and aimed at having more young people gain skills and knowledge that not only helps them grow but the country also develop. The NYS graduates are training thousands of youths in different skills in the 47 counties per year in a period of between four to six months.
In short, if NYS can reach more than 300,000 youth in one year, the intention is to create the one million youth match in four years. This is a social transformation army, armed with skills and charged with the responsibility of transforming the other youths.
The new NYS does not stop there are as once trained, the youths will be linked up to the Self Employment Programme Unit (SEPU) for start-up loans with Sh1 billion already set aside for this. Life skills are also important and the trainees will have to make a mandatory saving and SEPU will match the savings with some funds to enable them start up.
The plan to have the NYS takes over traffic control in selected parts of the country and provide security for slum areas and in non-strategic government installations is also a welcome development. This will leave other security agencies such as the police to concentrate on dealing with insecurity that has been dogging the country.
NYS will also have a security firm where Kenyans can hire NYS guards to protect them making them the alternative to militia groups and vigilantes. This is one of the many ways that we can deal with unemployment in the country and have a community that is economically empowered.
And so just like we dedicate a lot of resources to handling other issues such as insecurity, Kenya must make a deliberate attempt to make NYS one of the ways to dealing with unemployment. We will have solved half of the issues facing the country such as insecurity, poverty and drug and substance abuse if we handle unemployment among the youth.
(The writer is a political and communications consultant. Twitter @MachelWaikenda)