Monday, March 12, 2012
By The Post
Mon 12 Mar. 2012, 12:00 CAT
MARCH 12, Youth Day, is an opportunity for the youths to march, parade carrying banners with all sorts of messages and demands in the hope of satisfying those demands or some of those demands. Youth Day actually seems to be a mockery for the youths. Next year they will return once again carrying the same banners with the same messages and demands. It seems nothing, or very little, will be granted to the youths without them putting up a fight.
The youths seem to now be realising that they have to fight to attain anything from this order. Anything they have attained has been granted to them only after a gruelling fight. They have to keep up a constant fight in order to obtain some small benefit in this political, social and economic order. They have to fight so that their most elemental rights would be respected.
Therefore, every Youth Day they have to come carrying demands. What else can they do? They know that what they cannot do for themselves nobody will do for them. The youth knows that what he cannot win by his own work, nobody will win for him.
The youth always works for others but no one works for him. The youth campaigns for council, parliamentary and presidential candidates but no one campaigns for him; nobody ever works for him. The youth gives everything with generosity, he gives his sweat and energy; he gives his life.
Many times he is denied his hours of rest. The youth gives to everybody, but to him nobody ever gives anything. The youths are the majority of the people. The majority of our police officers are youths; the majority of our soldiers are youths; the majority of those who provide all sorts of services in our country are youths.
They are the most productive part of our population, they are the ones who make sacrifices, who work, they are today and they will be tomorrow, they will always be the majority of the people. But they don't govern. They are the majority, but others governed in their stead and governed against them.
They invented a democracy for them - a strange, a very strange democracy, in which they, who were the majority, did not count for anything. Although the youths were the ones who produced the majority of the wealth, many of them have nothing.
They have created a very strange democracy for the youths - a democracy in which the youths who were the majority, who were the majority of the voters do not even exist politically within society, do not count for anything. And thus, despite their tremendous force, despite their sacrifices, despite their work for others in our national life, despite the fact that they were the majority, they never governed nor counted for anything. They are not taken into account.
And that they are calling democracy! Democracy is where the majority governs. Democracy is that form of government in which the majority are taken into account. Democracy is that form of government in which the interests of the majority are defended.
It is said that a society which values its future affords the highest priority to the welfare and development of all its young people, of its youths. This is so because the world belongs to them; the future belongs to them. Zambia's future belongs to the youths.
Without meaningful participation and engagement of our youths in all areas of human endeavour, we will not make much progress as a country. The youths are the most active and vital force in society. They are the most eager to learn and the least conservative in their thinking.
Zambia must care for her youths and show concern for the growth of the younger generation. Young people have to study and work, but they are at the age of physical growth. Therefore, full attention must be paid to both their work and study and to their recreation, sport and rest.
We know that youth should be a time of energy and expectations; dreams about the future; a time of hope. Many of our older generations were fortunate enough to have those choices, opportunities and people who believed in them; who gave them the chance to fulfil their aspirations.
The issue is, of course, that for too many, this is far from the reality that they know today. We are now facing not only an economic challenge but also a social crisis in the face of the deficit of decent jobs for our young people. A record number of our young men and women are currently jobless.
A growing number, although they work, face economic insecurity and even working poverty. At the individual level, the result is reduced self-esteem, discouragement, diminished levels of well-being and as Thompson Luzendi, president of the Copperbelt University Students Union, has observed, most youths have resorted to beer drinking because they are stressed and depressed.
There is also a great social and economic loss accompanying all this. But we shouldn't lose hope; it gets dark sometimes, but the morning comes. Don't surrender. Suffering breeds character. Character breeds faith. In the end faith will not disappoint.
You must not surrender. You must never surrender. Things will get better. We know the spark of hope is never lost. Let's cling on to the belief that things may turn for the better, never buried. And the feeling that what you really need is a fair chance to prove yourself in life, never discarded. But we must not weigh down the resilience of the human spirit.
So, access to productive and decent work, the dignity of work, is indispensable if our young people are to realise their aspirations, improve their living conditions and make a positive contribution to the progress of our country. Decent work for the youths opens opportunities instead of closing doors.
It is enabling and empowering, putting the youths on a path of opportunity and spurring them to invest in themselves, in society, and in political stability. We need policies that can help ensure that our youths are adequately trained and continue to receive training. Of course, there is a cost to all this - but abandoning the youths brings a much, much greater cost.
There is need for all our leaders to listen to the messages and demands of our youths as they march and parade before them on this Youth Day, on this March 12. Let's be frank, actually listening to the voice of the youths, which is not done enough, is key to bringing about policy convergence. We all know that investing in our youths is investing in our future. But we also know that we are not doing it well today.
So let's make the right choices to do what is right for our youths. Youth unemployment has reached unprecedented and intolerable dimensions. It is time to concentrate on pro-employment strategies for youths that would eventually sustain consumption, boost demand, promote growth and create more jobs. But this should not be seen as an agenda for government only; it is also for the business and private sector.
But there is need for the government to provide a wide variety of incentives to promote youth employment. The youths are not happy. They are every day telling us that they are not happy with the way they are being treated.
Do we want to wait until they explode? The need for decent jobs, social justice and dignity, on the one hand, and anger against inequality and greed, on the other, are at the forefront of our youths' displeasure that is slowly turning into anger and which may, if not addressed quickly, lead to political and social instability.
A real transformation is needed to reform current policies and attitudes towards the youths and their plight.