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The young and the ruthless

By Denrele Animasaun

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life, you will have been all of these. – George Washington Carver.

A  friend had  a close  shave recently   with  some  burglars who laid  in  wait  for her while she  drove out  of  her  compound around 5am in order to beat the traffic in Lagos.

As  soon as  she  drove  out  of  her gate, they shoved a gun in her  direction and proceeded  to  frogmarch  her  back   to  her  home. Another   relieved her of her car keys.  She was forced back into the house at gunpoint. What has seemed like ages, she took them through every room and watched them ransack her house, from top to bottom.

They   helped  themselves to her electronic  goods, jewellery and  then, for good  measure, she   was   roughed up  and  whacked with the butt  of the gun for  daring  to look  at them in the face.

This  was so  surreal that  she got  on  to the  social  network and  told  us  about  her  harrowing experience.  Of course, we  were  relived and  the  usual sentiments  ensued: thanking God for her  good fortune ( I mean, life  is  priceless) that material things can be replaced and  so forth.

When  someone  goes  through  such experience, it leaves  an  indelible  mark on one’s  emotional health and some people  bounced  back  eventually. In others, it affects them so deeply.  They may be  traumatised   for  a  long  time  to  come  that  it  may  impact  on  their   physical  and emotional wellbeing.

Sadly, what happens in my friend’s case is not an isolated one. Up  and  down the  country , there are  so  many young people  who have  chosen  this  alternative   life style  to  the  detriment of  ordinary hard  working citizens.  What went wrong? Why are able bodied young people choosing this abhorrent way of life? Surely robbing or killing should not be one of them.

Statistics have  shown that there  are  a large   number  of  young  people who  are not in gainful employment  or  studying.

But there is  no  definitive  number  of  how  many 16 to  25 year-olds  are unemployed, in training or in education in Nigeria. The adage, that the devil finds work for idle hands is true.

Many  of these young  people  have fallen  by the wayside  with  no  stake  or  positive  aspiration and many  feel that they  have  been excluded  from  mainstream life.

Research has shown that if young people are not engaged in education, employment and training (EET).  We, as a society, are storing problems for the future.

In the UK, policy makers have indentified that more has got   to be done for this group.

In  Nigeria, statistics show that significantly less has been  spent  over the  years on  education and  this  is  having  an  impact on  the  young people.  Any government that fails to take note and falls to act does so at its peril. In the  UK , last year’s  riot was  a  jolt  that made  the  government  take  notice  and  act  to  address this vacuum.  We are not out of the woods yet. But the   UK government is proposing  to ensure that  young  people  stay  in  school  until  18  as  opposed  to  the mandatory  16.

Realistically, most of the young people in Nigeria do not have this luxury.  So  the  alternative  seem  to be  alluring; grievous bodily harm, thuggery, kidnapping   to  order contract  killing ,extortion and so on. Before  you accuse  me  of   fear mongering,  please understand me,  I  am  not  saying  that all  the  young  people are wayward  and criminally directed. They are not. The bad ones are giving the others a bad name. But  it  has become unnerving when  you  see  young  people  milling  around ,  am sure  the  thought   must  have  crossed your  mind.

It  is  alarming, how  many  are lurking  around  and they  have  become  so  audacious  and  ruthless. These hoodlums try to  justify  this  by  saying  that they   do not have  enough  money, or they  dropped  out  of  school,  can’t  afford  school or they don’t  have  a  job and so on.

They have   disengaged with society at large.  We   need to   re-engage those   who are on the periphery to move in the right direction. I hear you say these people are murderers, thieves and so on. If we do not want more of the same we need to prepare them for a better future. I  am  not  saying  what  they   do  is right   but many  have  been disadvantaged  and  face  so  many  obstacles:  grinding  poverty, ill health, broken homes, poor living conditions.

We need to enable participation, an inclusive programme and apprentice to employment programme. The  government  has  to  make  the  system  deliver by  recognising  the  needs of  the  young  people. So that they can regain confidence and self worth. High youth unemployment is one of the biggest problems confronting societies around the world, condemning a whole generation to a life of much reduced income and exclusion.

The   government should provide a quality educational experience, a sustainable employment and we need to cultivate a culture of aspiration in the community.

The saying maybe a cliché but it is undeniably true: knowledge is power. This holds true more so in Nigeria.

The work conditions of the population, in general and of youngsters, in particular, depend on the effectiveness of the education system.

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