“The problems facing young people in our country today are so real, we cannot afford artificial problems to solve them.” Raphael Obonyo, Author- Conversations About the Youth in Kenya.
I was in a matatu, just at the Kawangware market, headed to run my errands at around 3pm on a Wednesday afternoon. It is really noisy. There are several campaign teams actively polluting the environment with all the noise they can make. Vuvuzelas blaring, whistles blowing, women ululating, speakers atop pickups blasting with music-each pickup is playing its own tunes. Political hopefuls have hired ‘supporters’ in a competition of ‘who is more popular among the electorate’, as they prepare for political party nominations ahead of the August general elections in Kenya. Well, nothing special about this, right? However, I was struck by the number of obviously intoxicated youth-both men and women- posing as political supporters, yelling at the top of their voices as they sheepishly follow the pickup mounted with a huge banner of the political aspirant for whom they were hired to ‘support’.
My route home in the evenings at times involves the Bus Station in the Nairobi CBD. Anyone familiar with the area will tell you of the crowd of street kids that swarms under the huge advertisement screen right above the entrance of Tuskys Supermarket. There usually is an average of 30 street kids, others looking very young. They sit on the ground to watch whatever is on the advertisement screen; usually a TV program or a movie, as they sniff on cobblers’ glue and others beg for food from passers-by who blatantly shoo them away. When I look at these youth; I see despair and rejection. I see uncertain futures. I hear questions that have gone unanswered for so long but greatest of all, I see fire in the near future! Real fire!
Just a few weeks ago, a video of a policeman killing a teenage boy who was a member of a dreaded gang in the city did rounds on social media. The public (Kenyans) received the news with different tastes. Others supported the extra-judicial killing while others were bitterly against it. I chose to look at the young boy. Someone’s son/brother/cousin; no matter the circumstances, was part of a dreaded gang that terrorized and still is terrorizing residents of Nairobi. These are young men, and in some cases even women, who are engaged in theft, murder, drug abuse and other sorts of illegal activities. I am sure that such gangs are present in many metropolitan areas and have made life unbearable for many.
Where did we go wrong? Our youth are jobless and are resorting to uncivilized ways to make ends meet. Children are being abandoned by parents and guardians; ending up in the streets. Core values and discipline is no longer a priority when we are raising our children. Young people are just tired and have evolved to be staunch pessimists; because really, is there anything working to their advantage? They are seen as readily available to be bribed to cause havoc. We are not molding ourselves to be role models admirable by our children. Our social fabric is torn in places we never knew existed!
“We need to restore hope by restoring what is already given to the youth. There is a need to reclaim social amenities and provisions in systems that already exist, before we start introducing new systems that will cost us time.Our youth need to see that it is possible for things to work.” Maji Maji Kenya- Musician and Radio personality.
We have the education system that trains us for employment. How about we embrace the vast talent our youth possess and teach them how to transform their passions into solutions that will out them in business?
We have social halls with broken windows and doors, community playing fields that are now contended pieces of land and ministries with mandates that strike through youth, sports and innovation. How about we make these work first? Not just have them in place; we should have these facilities efficiently working for and supporting the youth.
We live in estates, villages, neighborhoods…Despite the tall walls, electric fences and automated gates, how about we become our neighbor’s brother’s and watch out for each other. Alert your neighbor if you notice their youth engaging in fishy activity. Inspire greatness in a young man today. Mentor a youth at your workplace or in your neighborhood. Let us weave back our social fabric for our own sake!
The youth are our future and we need to save it. Wherever you are, do something today. Play your part and be a practical solution to the problems our youth face today because in a way or another, these problems are also affecting you.