State needs to invest more in the youth, its future

Thursday, October 17th, 2019 09:00 |
Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Cabinet secretary Margaret Kobia on GBV cases.
Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Cabinet secretary Margaret Kobia. PD/FILE
Public Service, Youth and Gender Affairs Cabinet secretary Margaret Kobia. PD/FILE

Walter Odondi       

The government is banking on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (Tvets) to equip the youth with skills and stem rising unemployment.  

But despite the hype, most Tvets are yet to realise full enrolment besides lacking facilities to prepare the youth for challenging market demands.

Some are even mismanaged and may not offer much to the learners.

If the promise Tvets make does not come to fruition, Kenya, which leads the  East African region in youth unemployment, will be in awkward position. 

Our tertiary institutions churn out some 500,000 graduates annually, 75 per cent of whom  join the unemployed list.  According to the World Bank, an estimated one in five young people in Kenya is jobless.

And unless this trend is reversed, the country will stand accused of killing the dream of its largest population— and its future.  That’s why the International Youth Day,  usually marked annually on August 12, passes almost unnoticed. The youth have nothing to celebrate  in their joblessness. 

  In 2018, for instance, the government set aside, Sh45 million for this day and almost the same amount this year, but nothing meaningful has yet to come out of that fete except for additional policy briefs that    end up collecting dust on shelves like other national policies. 

A nation that fails to invest in the future of its youth will miss out on this critical demographic dividend. This is why any responsible government will invest in the youth who are its  future, strength and treasured resource for development.

 And this has to be deliberate and that is why the International Youth Day provides a platform for the government to outline and take stock of its policies on youth empowerment.  

Tvets, if well managed, is one those programmes to realise this dream. By equipping the youth with relevant skills and exposing them to apt technology, we’ll have adequately  prepared them for the fast-changing job market. 

Unfortunately, the youth seems to  be getting the shorter end of the stick. The recent appointment former Othaya Member of Parliament Mary Wambui, an old guard by all means,  as chairperson of the National Employment Authority (NEA) in a way reinforced the perception that the youth don’t matter.  She is the latest of the old guard to make a comeback to the public service, while the youth wallow in joblessness. 

While it would be unfair to discriminate against likes of  former  Vice President Moody Awori, retired public service head Francis Muthaura and  former Nyeri  Town MP Esther Murugi, it is only fair that they be allowed to enjoy their retirement as senior citizens.

Ironically, those in government advise the youth to self-employ, yet they cling to formal employment for years, seeking contract extensions or positions in boards. Indeed, the saying Kazi kwa vijana, pesa kwa wazee couldn’t be a better description of the situation.

The Jubilee government promised to create millions of jobs for young people. That remains just that — an empty promise.

Let’s not play Russian roulette with future generations, lest the entire boat—Kenya—sinks.

The writer is an assistant programme officer at Zizi Afrique Foundation

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