As a man in my thirties, I often make the mistake of referring to myself as young, and then I get hysterical looks from actual young people in their teens, who think of me as a pensioner.
Rwanda is a very young country, half the population is under 18 and young skilled people are driving the economy.
I was asked the other day “what kind of world are your children going to be born into?”
The real question was “what are you doing to make a better tomorrow?” I thought about it, and realised that I wasn’t doing enough.
I tithe, help relatives when I can, but in real terms I am not doing enough. Modern life can be a paper chase, wake up, work, sleep and in between you find less time to actually plan and enjoy life. When it comes to Rwanda we can end up forgetting our social values.
Looking at Rwanda, when you walk into most major companies, it is young people running the show; young people in Rwanda have never been so affluent before.
Some young women pay up to $60 a month for hairdos, men averagely spend $200 at the pub, and the credit crunch has reduced such lavish spending.
I look at European volunteers who are serving in Rwanda; they leave an affluent lifestyle to toil in the far reaches of our country. Why can’t affluent Rwandans go to the sun-burnt hills of Bugesera or Nyamasheke? The urban population is in danger of disconnecting from its rural roots.
I remember as a child, my father asked my brother where milk came from, he said “from the fridge!” He was duly horrified and set-off a cultural revolution akin to Mao to purge western decadent thought.
So soon Rwandan children might think milk just magically appears in the fridge, a sustainable resource that self-replenishes.
They might see a sweet potato and wonder what it is, they might think that chips grow from the “Ifiriti tree” and spaghetti is from a spaghetti tree.
Every generation has had it better than the previous one, I raved with excitement when I got a little transistor radio as a child. Today most kids have built-in MP3 players in their phone.
The children of the revolution have to take their rightful place at the table, they are often more worldly and better educated than the previous generation, but the young in Rwanda seem reluctant to step forward.
We have many examples of dynamic young people and I would urge you to vote for the “Young Rwandan achiever of the year.”
Let the person be an example to the young in general, to carry on what the previous started and go further.
It sounds trite but we need a new direction concerning the youth, to reconnect them with their culture, to introduce them to social service and caring for their fellow man.
We have to remind ourselves who we are, because we will lose a lot of our culture in the coming years.