It is a topic I keep coming back to time and again: in a world full of social, economic, and political challenges that transcend age, it is increasingly apparent that young people must step up to the plate and become part of new and diverse perspectives needed to resolve urgent issues affecting us all.
In fact, I strongly believe that today’s challenges such as income inequality, costs of living outstripping wages, climate change, and many more, mean that young people in particular can no longer get away with the ‘ntibindeba’ type of attitude. The stakes are so high that we cannot afford complacency.
You see, the common adage no matter what country you go to is that since the future of any nation rests in the hands of its youth, nurturing and supporting these important members of society requires tremendous dedication and persistence from all of us.
That much is clear. What isn’t quite as obvious however, is how to do it - how to nurture young people so that they are inspired enough to actively participate in aspects that actually affect them directly or indirectly now and in the near future.
You do not need me to tell you about the little interest or total indeference many young people display towards politics. Indeed, many young people dismiss politics as a field littered with grey-haired men, whose modus operandi can be summed up as: eat or be eaten.
In many ways, the perception is that politics is a dirty game and survival is the name of the game.
Which brings me to this thought: in view of President Paul Kagame’s recent call for young people to step up and take the opportunities of leadership by the horns, how likely is it that young people will heed the President’s call?
In my opinion, to achieve a smooth transition, two complimentary factors must be at play: on one hand, there has to be a fully-fledged youth support system with a role to nurture and encourage young people, and on the other hand, young people themselves must be ready to take ownership of their destiny.
Thankfully, at the initial assessment, one can safely say that elements of a youth support system in this country are present and improving by the day.
Likewise, there are signs to suggest that increasingly young people are shaking off the ntibindeba type of attitude by engaging in areas such as fighting genocide ideology, holding leaders accountable especially on social media, etc. Nonetheless, improvements are still needed, and below I add to the ongoing discourse to engage young people:
A fully-fledged youth support system that also extends to the Diaspora would provide a safety net to at-risk young people who encounter difficulties, some ideological in nature, to become active citizens.
Of course, this support system would require among other competent transformational concepts - the provision of quality education both formal and informal, on-the-job training programmes tailored to suit current and future employment needs, and access to entrepreneurial opportunities for those who wish to explore the world of business and social entrepreneurship to name but a few.
Young people, as human capital assets, must be empowered continuously to realise their potential and contribute fully to national development goals. It is my belief that given these opportunities and support – as it is currently the case in Rwanda – young people are capable of overcoming historical social structural problems that have somewhat impeded national development.
Left unaddressed, however, uneducated, unemployed, and idle young people are easy targets for those who wish to see Rwanda take two steps back for every step made.
And then there is taking ownership. It goes without saying that, in the absence of young people taking ownership of the problems they face, a fully-fledged support system alone would take us nowhere. We must seek to take responsibility the same way we seek support to nurture our potential.Follow https://twitter.com/JSabex