Give more incentives to outstanding youth

Saturday August 17 2019

Vice President Ssekandi touring stall at the

Vice President Ssekandi touring stall at the recently concluded International Youth Day at the national celebrations in Jinja district 

By Editor

Young people are an easy target for blame games and disparaging commentary. In the past week, while there have been several activities and events celebrating the youth and their ingenuity, some people have also used the opportunity to point out everything that is wrong with the ‘youth of today’.
But there is nothing new about this narrative, which makes it counterproductive as it is akin to beating someone while they are down.
The youth, despite all their shortcomings, are also resilient in the face of several challenges. What we need to ask is if we are doing enough to nurture and support this resilience. Not by throwing sacks of money at them, but by having structures in place to ensure that they are making the most of the resources at their disposal.
This year, Uganda’s theme for celebrating the International Youth Day was ‘Transforming education for responsible citizenship and employment creation’. Given the number of stories we have run about the worrying state of schools, teachers’ and lecturers’ strikes which interrupt lessons and a curriculum that still reeks of colonial times, it is not news that we still have a long way to transform education. And that is before we get into responsible citizenship and employment creation.
On youth unemployment, there has been that widely distributed misconception that Uganda has an 83 per cent youth unemployment rate, a statistic that was taken out of context in a 2014 Africa Development Bank report.
Thankfully, there have been several articles pointing out the error in this statistic. After all, the last national census carried out puts the figure at about 13 per cent. The youth in this case are people between 18 and 30 years. While the figure is significantly lower, it is still a problem society likes to throw around. Yes, youth unemployment is a problem and we continue to talk about it.
But what about the different ways the youth are addressing the unemployment problem? Yes, there are many young people finding a living where they can – the so-called hustle. But there are also many more young people in privileged positions coming up with ingenious ways to transform education so that the younger generation makes the most of their education.
But how are we supporting the youth who are nurturing reading for the fun of it and not for passing exams, or the youth who are providing an outlet for children’s creativity where it usually gets suppressed in the classroom? Are there incentives for such groups to continue flourishing?
Perhaps it is time that these be made available with clear accountability measures. These would nurture social discipline more effectively than asking young people to stop partying.
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