On 12th August, every year, the world celebrates International Youth Day. This day creates an opportunity to celebrate and bring to the limelight young peoples’ voices, actions, and initiatives. Also, the day is used for meaningful, universal, and equitable engagement. One of the core goals of the international youth day should be to harness the innate potentials in youths.
In 1999, the UN General Assembly endorsed the recommendations made by the World Conference of Ministers responsible for youth that 12th August be made International Youth Day. This endorsement strengthened national and global actions in support of young people.
International Youth Day 2020: Youth Engagement for Global Action
The theme for this year’s International Youth Day is youth engagement for global action. This theme seeks to show the significance of the involvement of young people at different levels in society. It will also address the means to enhance the representation and engagement of youths in the politics of different societal institutions. In this pandemic era, the world needs the vibrant energy of the youth to steer through the tides. Unfortunately, in most African countries, the youths watch from the sideline. So, how can youths be empowered to become a more productive part of African societies?
Challenges Facing the African Youth in the 21st Century
When we talk about youths, our emphasis is on those between 18 and 35 years. This is a delicate age bracket. Youths within this age bracket usually the ones screened out of national politics. Not that they lack potentials, but out of sheer neglect. The challenges facing African youths are numerous but we will only focus on the most pressing ones.
#1 – Lack of Youth Empowerment
African youths have the energy and zeal to become global leaders. However, without an enabling environment, many of them brave the Sahara to get to Europe. In most African countries, the plight of youths is neglected. In fact, there is no provision for them in the budget. No efforts to empower them with the basic needs that will serve as a springboard for them to dive into their goals. Their voices through protests are snuffled with police crackdowns. Some times, they are even seen as a nuisance.
#2 – Poor Representation in National Governments
In democratic countries, the legislature makes the rules. Unfortunately, youths are often not part of this decision making. The older generation makes the rules on issues that bother the youths. However, we all know that no one can express your grievance better than yourself. Sadly, youth impacts are barely recognizable in most African nations. In fact, many youth initiatives die at infancy. Why? No one is there to champion for inclusivity in the national agenda.
Funny enough, national governments often appoint youth representatives who are over 60 years. It’s funny because these people barely understand the challenges the youth are facing. It then becomes hard for them to speak for the majority since they lack first-hand information. If only the youth were represented by one of their own, things will probably be different.
#3 – Substandard Curriculum in Learning Institutions
Education is the bedrock of any nation. But this can only be the case if the curriculum is up-to-date, robust, diverse, and skill-driven. This is a thing that most African nations do not observe. This systemic failure results in half-baked educators and poor teaching facilities in institutions. When youth go through such education systems, they lack the proper skill to survive in the modern era. Also, some regions in Africa frown against western education. They prefer their conventional lifestyle which often involves recycling a generation of herders and farmers. When a young boy grows up in such an environment, he will barely understand the importance of education.
#4 – Low-Quality Healthcare in Africa
It’s saddening to get reports of deaths of up to 1.6 million Africans from malaria, tuberculosis, and other curable diseases annually. A 2015 research showed that approximately 2% of the drugs consumed in Africa are manufactured on the continent. The rest are imported. When a continent with around 1.5 billion people cannot manufacture drugs for its people, it leaves a begging question. A healthy population makes for a healthy workforce that drives the economy. One of the reasons why the healthcare system in Africa is of low quality due to neglect by the government. Most African leaders neglect the healthcare system because they travel abroad for treatment.
How Parents Can Support And Prepare Their Youth For The Challenges Of The 21st Century
African youth face many challenges. Some African governments are working hard to create the kind of environment that will encourage youth to thrive while other African governments have little or no interest in investing in their Youth. This may seem bleak but it is just a small obstacle especially considering we live at a time when the world is more connected than ever. We are at a time when African youth just need a little direction and guidance to tap into their potential and become the change makers that African desperately needs. For that that to happen, the first line of empowerment starts with parents. Here are 5 simple ways parents can empower their youth to tackle the challenges of the 21st century.
Include Youth in Decision-Making Processes
When an aggrieved party is not part of the resolution, the entire process is flawed. This happens a lot in the making of key decisions that affect African youths whether it is in the legislative process or at home. Youth should be encouraged to participate in conversations and decisions that will impact their future.
Some ways to do this is by involving them in groups, projects, communities and initiatives where they are allowed to contribute and have impact. They should also be encouraged to join youth programs with their churches and participate in forums like the Voices of Youth initiative that was set up by UNICEF.
Encourage Youth to Follow their Passion
Everyone is ambitious at their youth. For the youth to tackle the global challenges of the 21st century, they need to be passionate about what they do. Hence, parents, guardians, and leaders need to support the talents and ambitions of the youth who are future leaders. The trend of parents picking a career path for their children should stop already.
Only confident youths can meet this year’s International Youth Day theme. With the dawn of the internet it is easier now more than ever for Youth to be exposed to different opportunities and paths. Parents should tap into the interests of their children and encourage them to pursue their passions. For example, if a child is creative, they can be encouraged to try out graphics design, if a child is a natural leader – they can be encouraged to start their own group or lead a group, if a child is passionate about technology – they can be encouraged to learn coding or even launch their own app.
Encourage Youth to Seek Out Knowledge
Properly educated youth will be able to propel positive change in their nations and on a global scale. Investing in quality education systems can include steps like benchmarking first world systems and duplicating their models, channeling more budgetary allocations to education sectors, and encouraging youth to attend school. However, having such systems is not in the immediate trajectory for some African countries. That however should not impede learning.
Today education is being democratized through the internet. People across the globe who have access to a computer and internet can get as good an education outside the classroom as students in a classroom. With sites like Youtube that house a wealth of knowledge, to more structured and organized educational platforms like Khan Academy, the opportunities are endless. The key is to encourage youth to be always curious and to remain students.
Learning is never complete. A key trait that will empower youth is the ability to seek out knowledge, research information on areas they want to develop or improve. A good example of this can be seen in the example of William Kamkwamba who helped his village by building a windmill based on knowledge he picked up from book.
Encourage Youth to Be Problem Solvers
Some African villages and communities are still struggling to get their basic needs met like clean drinking water and electricity. There is often the need to seek out the government or external groups/organizations to tackle many of these challenges. However, youth should be encouraged to be the problem solvers within their community. Parents should encourage their youth to be the solution or at least seek out solutions that will strengthen and improve the livelihood of their communities,
Encourage Youth to Compete In The Global Arena
Social media has connected the world in ways that not even the social media giant founds could have anticipated. None of the founders of Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter … could have known that the platforms they were creating will have such a massive impact on the world. This in itself is a gift to African youth. From the comforts of their homes, they can compete for jobs on freelance jobs, seek out employment, create their own businesses and more.
While local job opportunities may be limited, they can transcend those limitations by stepping into the global arena and seek out employment. Parents should encourage their youth to not only rely on the opportunities that are local but to be fearless in stepping into the global arena and competing for opportunities as well.
Have A Mindset Shift
Parents play a huge role in the development of a child. Therefore, they are in the best position to empower their children for them to grow into self-sustaining youths. Parents can do this by giving them the freedom to choose a career path and monitoring their development. However, for parents to prepare their youth for the future, parents themselves will have to expand their own limiting beliefs and work on themselves. Parents have the ability to help their kids soar on break their spirit and limit their potential. For a parent to be able to help their youth, they themselves will have to be open minded enough to encourage their youth to not only step outside of the box but to boldly step into new horizons.
International Youth Day is a special day for everyone. Thus, it is one of those days the projects the voices of youths. Africa has one of the brightest youths in the world. It is not surprising that they become pacesetters when they move to Western countries with enabling environments. To reiterate, it’s only by empowering youth that they will make a significant contribution to their society and world. Now we will like to ask, what the three most important things that every African youth needs to make a difference in the world? Kindly leave your answers in the comment box below. We read all of them!