The cliché: Youths are the leaders of tomorrow’, is a popular one. But the youths whom the line opines to target no longer fancy it because the current reality in the country does not really support the leadership aspiration of the youth. Therefore, it has become significant to ask ourselves how well the society has prepared the youth for the great tasks of leadership and nation building.
According to a World Bank statistics, youth unemployment rate is 38%, but realistically, 80% of Nigerian youths are unemployed with secondary school graduates mostly found among unemployed rural population accounting for about half of this figure, while Universities and Polytechnic graduates make up the figure. What seems to be more worrisome is the fact that the nation’s Universities and Polytechnics continue to churn out more than 150,000 graduates in both Bachelor degrees and Higher National Diploma categories annually and job creation has been inadequate to keep pace with the expanding working age population.
Worth mentioning is the non –readiness of aged workers, particularly civil servants to retire and give rooms for the youths to take charge. Similarly, youths are being short-changed politically as they increasingly find it difficult to find their bearing in the political landscape. And when some of them are found in the corridors of power or part of decision making, it’s by the power of their influential parents, not on merit.
Increased enrolment rates in schools, due to high population rate have also created challenges in ensuring quality education and satisfactory learning achievement as resources are spread more thinly across a growing number of students. It is not rare to see cases of 100 pupils per teacher or students sitting under trees outside the school building because of the lack of classrooms.
Consequently, the number of schools, facilities and teachers available for basic education remain inadequate for the eligible number of children and youths. This is more so in urban areas where there is population pressure. Under these conditions, teaching and learning cannot be effective; hence the outcomes are usually below expectation.
Worthy of note is also concern over the challenge of girls’ education. In the North particularly, the gender gap remains particularly wide and the proportion of girls to boys in school ranges from 1 girl to 2 boys to 1 to 3 in some States. Experiences have shown that investments in girls’ education translate directly and quickly into poverty reduction, better health care, better nutrition for the whole family and better overall economic performance.
Therefore, in order to equip the youths for the arduous task of leadership and nation building, the elders should invest their time and various resources at their disposal to mentor the younger ones. Mentoring is a relationship where a less experienced person learns from a more experienced one over a period of time as it is impossible for someone to learn or discover everything and not wants to learn from the people around. According to the practice in traditional African society, it is believed that although two people come together to bring forth an offspring, many people will partake in guarding and guiding the child to maturity.
One other way by which the youths can be mentored is through their membership of voluntary organizations like the Boys’ Scouts. Founded in 1915 by the British colonialists with the motto ‘Be Prepared’, its laws include that a scout is loyal to his country, his scouter, his parents, his employers and to those under him. Also, a scout’s duty is to be useful and to help others. This intervention is being exploited in Lagos State to inculcate the spirit of team work, unity and a sense of preparedness in the youths.
Furthermore, in order to train the youths to fight unemployment, skill acquisitions must be encouraged for self employment. Access to loans to start their own businesses must be guaranteed. Meanwhile, they should have been educated earlier on the importance of saving culture, planning and its overall effect on other aspects of life.
This was done recently by Pension Alliance Limited [PAL] whose staff travelled across the country to give primary and secondary school students, practical financial and economic information with a view to inculcating the tenets of good financial management into the young ones. Social welfare packages for the youths must be put in place to cushion the effects of economic hardships caused by unemployment.
Smooth and better access to quality education without hiccups such as teachers/ lecturers strikes must be ensured in order to breed better informed youth that can contribute meaningfully to nation building. In addition, a tangible percentage should be given to the youths in politics to ensure good representations in decision making at all tiers of government. For instance, during the recently concluded national conference, there were protests from some quarters that the representatives of the youth were individuals that are over 50 years.
Of much importance is the fixing of the nation’s economic problems which have been largely due to mismanagements and misplaced priorities. Presently, in-spite of the country’s huge resources, most Nigerians suffer from extreme poverty.
Now, more than ever, we need to promote social entrepreneurship among the youths. This could be done through the establishment of internship programmes aimed at giving youths the opportunity to learn valuable skills in contemporary fields such as information communication technology, fund development, public relations, program development, management and much more. Equally, corporate organisations, NGO’s, individuals and government institutions should be committed to mentoring of the youths.
However, the youths should shun every overture from any quarter that could turn them into anti-social agents. While it is true that things are a bit tough in the country for now, but that is not enough justification for the youths to become willing tools in the hands of unscrupulous individuals who do not have their interests at heart.
If late professor Chinua Achebe and Professor Wole Soyinka could become celebrated authors at age 22, the youth could ride over present challenges and take hold of their place in the scheme of things.
•Bakare writes from Alausa, Ikeja