The Constitution defines a youth as someone below 35 years of age. In Kenya, more than 60% of the population is composed of the youths. These young people have very many concerns they feel have been highlighted before in various fora but the government and the responsible parties seem to give them a deaf ear.
Tribalism, Lack of employment, corruption, drug and substance abuse, gender imbalance as well as concerns about the rising numbers of militia groups all over is a reason for concern and they would like to be listened to.
Recently during a Trainers of Trainers (TOT’s) workshop at the Resurrection Garden, a project of the Just Communities at the OAIC, the youths were at pains to express why their lives had been turned into a miniature of activities that was not bringing any commendable fruits in their lives.
Complaints of tribalism being rife and the fact that it had reared its head, and just like an octopus, its tentacles seem to be ever present; not receding any time soon was heard from various sectors of those who attended. Recently the National Commission on Integration and Cohesion (NCIC) put on the spot top universities which were blamed for favouring certain tribes over others in their employment criterion.
The youths in the forum were saddened by the fact that one’s tribe played a big role when they intentioned to participate in any developmental activity as some were deliberately left out because of their tribal affiliations.
Lack of employment was cited as one of the main reasons why the young people were languishing in poverty which had led many to indulge in norms that were frowned upon by society. The fact that many were educated to higher levels yet they were still required to have many years experience before they are employed was a reason to worry.
“Getting education is an expensive affair and getting the 5 years experience in order to get employment is an even more expensive affair,” retorted one person.
The youths also complain about corruption which is rampant everywhere and they say they are still asked to part with money in order to make headway in nay activity yet they know they are qualified to and deserve to be somewhere.
“ I know of a friend of mine who got employed in one of the parastatals after parting with 50,000 shillings. I was with him in school I had performed better than him but he got the job. It is sad that in Kenya today if you do not come from a well- to – do family who can “buy” you a job as they can afford the bribe, despite one’s qualifications, many young people still struggle to make ends meet,” cited one young man.
However, Wycliffe Omuchenya one of the Tot’s who is well versed with the advocacy campaigns as he has been largely involved in various activities organised by the Civil Society organisations in a quick rejoinder stated that the young people also need to change their attitudes if they would like to make headway in life. He says that it is a fact that all the problems that have been mentioned are true but complaining and not taking step towards the right direction will deny the young people an opportunity to develop themselves.
“There are many forums that have insightful information on the ongoings in government and various sectors and you will find just a number of young people participating. The young people are so money- minded that opportunities just pass them as they watch. For examples forums like Agenda Kenya, KARA, and various others are very informative and if you ask a young person to attend, the first thing they will ask you is “how much money are they giving at the end of the forum?”. Instead of wasting time doing nothing, you never know you might meet a contact which will help you in the future,” stated Wycliffe.
The other issue that seems to agitate the young people is that the government policies are very unfriendly to the young people. “For instance we see that the retirement age for civil servants has been moved to 60 years. This has made it difficult for the young people as they have to wait for a longer period to get opportunities in the government,” retorted John Wambua, one of the attendees.
The fact that there are very many old people in government and other organisations today who do not look like they will retire any time soon yet there are very many young jobless people who are highly educated is worrying.
Government policies and structures have made the young people lead deplorable lives and many have resorted to cheap schemes that bring in some quick money in order to survive. For example , they complain that despite such funds like the Youth fund being publicised, it is very difficult for the young people to access them.
“Accessing the Youth Fund is very difficult. This is because they want the proposals written in a specific way yet they do not tell us how to write them. We see that only the people who know people working there are able to be guided on how to write the proposals in accordance with the requirements. I totally blame the Youth fund for not conducting any civic education and especially for the rural people who do not have free flowing access to information,” stated one person.
Some of the attendees who are leaders in their various communities and churches at the workshop stated that they would like such institutions to provide sufficient information for everyone to benefit and not just the few privileged ones.
“ It is also very difficult to get government contracts and unless you come from a well connected background, such contracts are just “heard of. ” To think that you can win a government contract and the conditions therein makes it one of the most difficult things to do. It is only recently that we saw the president come out and speak on the policies in various government institutions that need to be reviewed to make them youth friendly in order for the young people to participate equally,” stated Wycliffe.
Alcohol and substance abuse among the young people is killing this generation. Mombasa has been in the news majorly because of drugs and substance abuse among the young people. This has even made it worse for HIV/AIDS campaigns as infection rates are soaring among the drug abusers.
The needles used for the injections are shared without a care as they are usually mostly intoxicated at the time of injections. The rising incidences has been largely blamed on unscrupulous rich people who include some leaders who are solely responsible for ensuring that the business still thrives as the poor man’s child suffers the consequences.
This has on the other hand led to high rates of insecurity which has seen many young people lose lives as they break the law in that state.
Militia groups’ infiltration in society is a cause for alarm. This should be a big enough reason to worry the government. During the weekend we saw an attack at the Machakos Country bus that has left 9 people so far dead. This is really sad as the people who have
been arrested are very young people. This is a sad story to tell as young as 16 years old are joining militia groups and some even discontinuing their education.
A young man was recently arrested for mobilising and recruiting youths for Al-shabaab missions. This young man is a university graduate from well known institution of higher learning. Considering that he has great mobilisation skills and he is very educated and he has chosen that path, is worrying indeed. This shows that if government does not come up with strategies on how to ensure that the young bright minds are used effectively, this will be a dangerous breeding ground for dissenting youths.
The Mungiki, Al- Shabaab operatives, Taliban and other sects are very dangerous and all of them are mainly made up of young people. The Post election Violence was also blamed on such sects as most young people affiliated to the groups were used as foot soldiers to commit the atrocities.
The Kazi Kwa Vijana – A programme for the youths to find employment – has not been helpful largely because it was not well thought out and no structures had been put in place before it was rolled out. Corruption has also not made things any better for the initiative thus the need for the government to put up mechanisms that are going to make the young people feel appreciated.
Lack of role models especially for boy child has seen the boy lost in his own world. We have seen cases of men being battered and men standing up in arms complaining that the boy child has been neglected. The question is “who has neglected the boy child?” as one Editor with the Standard newspapers, Njoki Karuoya recently asked. The men need to come up and have time to mentor the boys as the women have been in the forefront to mentor the girls who are now performing exceptionally well.
All in all the young people in the workshop dubbed “ the action shop”- no talk without action – Concluded that that it was their responsibility to engage the leaders, by participating in educational, social and any other developmental fora which will also help them to acquire knowledge and they shall not be motivated just by meagre payments.
The young Turks as they are referred to in other sectors would like anyhow to see that employment and opportunities available are distributed by virtue of merit and nothing less. They also resolved to mobilise themselves and seek for answers in the various government institutions as a way forward. That they will endeavour to keep their ears on the ground to avoid being left out of opportunities is a well thought-out action for the young people.
The new judiciary is a motivator as one young man stated. He says that it has become easier to seek justice in a court of law today than in the previous years. The fact that the new Chief Justice is very approachable makes the justice system very friendly indeed. He urged the young people not to shy away if they feel segregated and that the court could bring the desired justice in their situations.
This being an elections year, the young people feel it is time that they are also counted as elected leaders. They say that if they don’t support each other no one will. However, they take caution saying that they are ready to elect leaders who have proved beyond doubt that they are people of integrity and not bring shame to the current generation as has been observed by some young elected leaders.
They stated that they are going to mobilize other young people to ensure that there is a charter that shall be developed to hold the elected leaders accountable. This will force them to be responsible as if they are not able to perform significantly well in accordance with what they signed in the charter, they shall not be eligible for re-election.
By: Fiona Imbali, OAIC Communications