Friday, January 18, 2013

Needs of the youths

Needs of the youths
Fri 18 Jan. 2013, 13:40 CAT

Geoffrey Mwamba, the Minister of Defence, says that any country that does not attend to the needs of the youths is on a self-destruction path. We agree. A nation, a country, a society which values its future affords the highest priority to the needs of its youths. Truly, the future of the country depends on how well it addresses the plight of its youths.

Our young people, our youths are our most important natural resource, and we must prepare them for the future. And this realisation should stimulate us in working for the future of our young people. And with this in mind, we call on everyone to keep on working and struggling with enthusiasm, strength, firmness and unwavering confidence in the future. And the basic clay of our work should be the youth. We should place our hope in them and prepare them to take the banner from our hands.

Good leaders must be interested in the welfare of the youth. We expect them to feel the distress of our young people who are bearing the tragedy of high unemployment.

But dealing with problems and challenges facing the youth is not an easy thing. This is so because these young people carry on their shoulders many problems and challenges; they carry on their heads and backs the challenges and problems of the whole nation - the nation of the past, the present and the future. We need leaders of courage who will defend the truth and demand justice for our young people.

But the importance of our youths, of our young people is something that is being sloganeered about in our politics everyday. "The youths are the greatest resource of our country!" How often we hear that statement! And how true is it for our homeland! Our young people are indeed our greatest resource, our richest treasure, our best hope for the future. Yet today in Zambia, we hear of the frightening abuses of that resource, of its deterioration, exploitation. We sadly note that this resource is being abused amidst great suffering, a suffering which by and large seems to go unnoticed by those in our politics and is often inadequately responded to by government programmes.

We are therefore delighted whenever we hear of any government programme being initiated, being commissioned that is aimed at the youth. However, we always feel that much more needs to be said and to be done if we are to meet effectively the massive problems and challenges of our young people.

It is demoralising for our young people to find there is no work waiting for them when they leave school, college or university.

Most of the problems and challenges our youths are facing arise from the failure of the economy to provide sufficient jobs. While it is true that no economy is able to provide all the young people with jobs, joblessness among the youths in Zambia is not just a matter of a small number; it is an extremely serious problem.

In order to derive benefit from our economy, our young people must be able to participate in it; and for most of them, the primary means of economic participation is work. If we expect our young people to contribute to national development, we have to create opportunities for them to work. If we expect our young people to work and contribute to national development, then we must make it possible for them to do so.

In this regard, a profound responsibility rests on both the political authorities and those who hold powerful positions in the economy. Everything possible must be done to maximise job opportunities for our young people. And where the choice is between greater profits and greater employment for our young people, the latter must be chosen. This is a matter of the greatest urgency.

As long as these high unemployment levels among our young people remain the case, there can be no hope of achieving secure and prosperous future for our young people and indeed our country as a whole.

And as defence minister Mwamba has correctly observed, there is an enormous social cost to high youth unemployment. The harm caused by high youth unemployment is by no means limited to material matters.

While simplistic deductions must be avoided, there can be no doubt that a connection exists between high rates of unemployment among the youths and the distressing high incidences of crime, gangsterism, drug and alcohol abuse. Many of these social problems in turn impact negatively on the economy, resulting in a vicious circle which will only be broken by the provision of jobs to the great majority of our young people.

This country is theirs and ours, but in the last analysis, it is theirs, it belongs to the young people, the youths. Young people, full of vigour and vitality, are in the bloom of life, like the sun at six or seven in the morning. Our hope is placed in them. The world belongs to them. Zambia's future belongs to them. Zambia must care for her youths and show concern for the growth of the younger generation. Therefore, full attention must be paid both to their work and study and to their recreation, sport and rest.

The success of all that we are doing, of our political work, of all our government programmes must be measured by how much they address the problems and challenges of our young people, of our youths. The hopeless and desperate young people we meet everyday are a testimony to an unfinished job. There can be no keener revelation of our progress, of our soul than the way in which we address the problems and challenges being faced by our young people. The true character of a society is revealed by how it treats its young people. But as Dr Kenneth Kaunda once observed, our young people also have a responsibility to bear:

"The future of this country lies entirely in your hands, and we can provide you with opportunities, as indeed we are fast doing, but in the end it is your own effort that must count in making you a successful citizen or resident. In the end, it is your own willingness to contribute to the good of Zambia that matters. Hold these opportunities with both hands, and if I may borrow from the Scout movement, grow up always prepared to serve your country under any difficulties and at all times. Will you?"

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