There has been much discussion about the youth. Various youth empowerment programmes have been developed and implemented in Malawi. Malawi has seen an increase in the number of non-governmental organisations as well as international partners specifically dedicated to address the challenges that the youth face. However, due to lack of sustainable and comprehensive programmes, these initiatives have not made a significant difference in the lives of the youth, especially those that are out of school.
It is worth noting that the youth represent a very important segment of the population. Our society can only ignore the youth at its own peril. The best time to utilise the youth for national development is now, when they still have the energy and drive. What is at stake by ignoring the youth is the kind of future the country will have in no distant time.
A country with many of its youths roaming the streets aimlessly, without jobs and business opportunities, is bound to lose its youth to crime, prostitution and drug abuse, all because the youth feel desperate and socially excluded. All they see is nothing but darkness ahead of them. Empowering the youth, therefore, could be an important milestone towards attaining a society that is in control of antisocial behaviour.
As the youth become economically empowered, their parents are also relieved of the burden of having to continue taking care of the financial needs of their aged children. Instead, these youths turn into independent and reliable providers of their families needs. It is painful for parents to see the future of their grown-up children getting doomed right before their eyes.
The challenges that the youth of Malawi encounter are well documented, and unemployment and lack of business opportunities top the list. Most youths are recruited into drug abuse, prostitution, crime and other antisocial activities owing to unemployment and lack of business opportunities.
There is an urgent need for the country to develop and implement a comprehensive programme that will have a lasting impact on the lives of the youth in order to positively change the course of their destinies in life. The country needs a complete package that addresses all aspects of youth development.
First and foremost, right from childhood, at family and community levels, there should be relentless efforts to instil some basic virtues of success in life that include education, goal setting and industry. Young people must grow up knowing that a combination of these virtues will guarantee success in life. In this regard, parents, guardians, teachers, religious and traditional leaders have an important role to play in young people’s development.
Secondly, the nation needs to create opportunities and avenues for income generation for the youth. This should not only focus on providing loans but it should be another comprehensive package. Several dimensions that must be explored. The nation must create gainful employment opportunities for all categories of youths. Issues of work experience should also be re-considered to facilitate quick entry of fresh graduates into the job market.
Knowing that there are so many poor young people that, by their own choice or other uncontrollable circumstances, failed to continue with their studies, the country should devise collateral-free loan schemes. These loan schemes should aim at turning the youth into serious entrepreneurs. Much as having access to affordable loan facilities is important, for many young people, lack of basic skills in managing their businesses can hinder their business success. It is, therefore, imperative to build their capacity in the areas of marketing, accounting, business management, sales and personnel management if the youth are to grow in their new business ventures.
The country needs to open opportunities for young people, especially in rural areas. If no comprehensive programme to uplift the youth is put in place, the country should brace itself for hard times in a foreseeable future.– The author likes commenting on social issues