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.