|Youth core to nation-building|
|Wednesday, 20 June 2012 12:00|
Zimbabwe celebrated the Day of African Child on June 16, and this was the time to reflect and clearly define the role of the youth in nation development. The term nation-building here is used to refer to a constructive engagement of all citizens in building social cohesion, economic prosperity and political stability in an inclusive and democratic way.
In many independent countries it was the youth who led the revolutions for independence so it’s only natural that the youth should be at the forefront of national development and defense of nationhood.
The African Youth Charter recognises the role and the importance of the youth in nations and societal development.
Though many instruments and charters have been formulated and rectified, very few nations have taken those deliberate steps towards the inclusion of the youth in nation building and development.
The result is that a number of youths have become disillusioned, hopeless and menace to society.
Inspite of these impressive blueprints which are meant to benefit the youth, the condition of the African youth leaves a lot to be desired.
A lot more needs to be done to empower them, re-energise them and get them seriously involved with the task of nation building and socioeconomic development.
The past attempts of addressing the problems of the youth were characterised by much rhetoric and little in terms of concrete action.
Governments and other stakeholders need to muster the political will to fully implement all the initiatives that will see the young people play effective role in nation building.
According to the African Youth Charter, “Africa’s greatest resources is its youthful population and that through their active and full participation, Africans can surmount the difficulties that lie ahead”.
Having this in mind the question is has enough being done to harness this resource for the betterment of Africa?
The energies, inventiveness, character and orientation of the youth define the pace of development and the security of a nation.
Through their creative talents and labour power, a nation makes giant strides in economic development and socio-political attainments.
And because of their youth’s dreams and aspirations, the future of a nation is assured.
For this reason the inclusion and participation of the youth in nation building can never be over emphasised.
Youth have consistently clamored for more space for them to participate and contribute to national development.
In the youth lies potential power to contribute in a constructive way to the development of a nation both in the future and present.
It is the closing of that spacing of youth participation that frustrates the young people and lead to failure of some of the policies and initiatives that are supposed to benefit the youth.
After working with the youth in different forums like church, civil society, business circles, I have come to realise that, youth development; community development and youth participation are interlinked.
This pushes the focus beyond seeing young people solely as potential recipients of services bur partners in national development.
The question many forums of the youth raise is “adults, may be able to represent the issues of youth, but can they represent the spirit and interests of the youth?” hence the need for full participation of the youth in all processes that affect them be it political, economic, and or social processes.
As in a nation we need a vibrant youth for nation development not for use as political tools.
To get the best out of the youth we need to create an enabling framework for them to contribute to the development of the nation.
There are three universally cited reasons for why the young people are excluded from political, economic and social participation. Reason number one is that the young people are perceived as lacking the skills and qualities.
We all know that this is far from the truth, as the young people have the skills and if they lack they compensate it with their ability to learn fast and adapt easily. The second reason is that young people are not afforded the opportunities to share power with the adults. This is so in part because they are viewed as lacking the requisite skills. Consequently they are not invited to the table. The irony is, however, that once the youths are at the table, they are viewed as threats to adult power. Rather than work with young people to build or transfer skills, adults either abdicate power or work to control it.
The third reason why youths are excluded from nation building processes is the myth that the young people are generally apathetic in these issues. Young people are frequently portrayed as lacking motivation to become involved.
The description of young people as socially inert, self-absorbing group with little or no interest in the political or economic processes is actually misplaced. This has been proved to be untrue and the young people are far from apathetic. Just have a look in the number of youth organizations that we have around the country all working to contribute to national development in one way or another.
President Robert Mugabe and Minister Kasukuwere should be applauded for exhibiting visionary leadership. They are working tirelessly to increase the participation of the young people in the national development. Through the Ministry of Youth, Zimbabwe Youth Council, they have been working to create and facilitate an enabling environment for youth participation to effectively occur. The policy framework of black empowerment has just come at the right time. This is a supportive policy framework that allow for easy start-up of businesses by young people and for them to flourish. The recent adoption of the new updated youth policy by cabinet is a step in the right direction.
As we work with the youth we need to realize that the young people are the last group we are allowed to systematically exclude.
They have the energy, vibrancy and can contribute constructively to nation development. Even church groups know that to have a vibrant church there is need to have a vibrant youth. Pastors will go out of their ways to make sure the energies of these young people are tapped for the betterment of the church. Unfortunately the need to participate has led to political manipulation of the youth as in the case of some youth organizations and political parties we have around. The youth should be treated as equals and a valuable asset to societal development. As in a nation we need a vibrant youth for nation development not for use as political tools. To get the best out of the youth we need to create an enabling framework for them to contribute to the development of the nation.