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Youth represents strength and stamina; youth symbolizes curiosity and creativity, youth is the picture of the future and any country and nation which truly yearns for growth, development and advance must pay close attention to the grooming and empowerment of its youthful populace. This is imperative knowing that like a blessing of talent uncultivated, a youthful demography unharnessed could become a curse – a sleeping volcano waiting to erupt!

Nigeria is a nation of baby-boomers – with youths comprising constituting approximately 65% of her 170 million populations; filled with energy and endowments capable of shooting Nigeria to the pinnacle of development. But alas, the monsters of unemployment, complacency, violence, inferiority complex, criminality, official greed, fast-money mentality, ill-health etc have connived to trap this army of youth down in the mud of shame, inactivity, and backwardness. Yet, our situation is not beyond redemption. We can light up this pall of darkness hanging over our heads by empowering our youths.

When we advocate for youth empowerment, we are simply demanding that dignity, faith and confidence be injected into the hands and heads of our burgeoning youths, for it takes self-belief for an eaglet to make its first flight. We are pushing that society be re-organized in a way that promotes healthy competition, discourages mediocrity, accepts honest failure; rewards hard-work, and celebrates excellence. Perhaps, we would take the license to quote for its aptness the Commonwealth of Nations Plan of Action for Youth (2007-2015):

Young people are empowered when they acknowledge that they have or can create choices in life, are aware of the implications of those choices, make an informed decision freely, take action based on that decision and accept responsibility for the consequences of those actions. Empowering young people means creating and supporting ‘the enabling conditions’ under which young people can act on their own behalf, and on their own terms, rather than at the direction of others.

Essentially, the road-map to youth empowerment begins in the head. This notion calls for an urgent psychological reconfiguration of our youthful populace to become masters of their destinies instead of relying perpetually on Government or the stars to bear their burden, improve their fortune, and make a future for them. To achieve this task, there is need for a radical reorientation and re-culturation of our youths to see themselves as capable and creative problem-solvers, job-creators instead of mere paper wielding job-seekers. We must inculcate in them the virtue of contentment, entrepreneurship, and patriotism. Now, the average Nigerian graduate has been indoctrinated to see him or herself as ‘half-baked’, deserving meager pay or nothing at all-unemployable. Therefore, he or she easily falls prey to criminal schemes in a bid to escape a life of odium, lack, and indignity. How can the genius in our youths be unleashed when they fell ‘below average’ in a society that rarely celebrates and encourages ideas and initiatives? We must de-emphasize the government as the sole creators of employment, and psyche up our youths as the vanguard of employment-creation in this century. Even the ‘un-educated or un-certified youths’ must be encouraged to use their hands for it is in taking pleasure in their hands and legs can the gulf be bridged.

Furthermore, to empower our booming youths, we must overhaul our educational structure and strategy by re-tooling our learning processes, for proper education still remains the surest means to rapid growth and development. We live in a knowledge-driven age where true knowledge is in the doing, not in the flashing of some paper qualification. Hence, in re-tooling our leaning processes, we must provide a fertile ground where the seedlings of curiosity and creativity can be sown, pruned and flourish. In other words, our educational institutions should train and encourage our youths to create, manufacture and serve, not just make grades. Technology is not alien to any race or people on earth, once any people can understand and master their environment by freely exploring the depth of curiosity, creativity and innovation – technology is born. From crèche to the university, our youthful minds must be taught to see the world in different light and never despise any human endeavour, no matter the dirt involved. They must be encouraged to idealized, practice, pursue, and even fail in order to grow in the realization of their dream. Besides, entrepreneurial skills should be cultivated and not approached in theoretical basis. It should be introduced to the students as projects. This way, the students’ ability and confidence will be enhanced when they see the creation their faculties. They can do it. To add, our learning institutions must become information communication technology complaint in all ramifications. The internet is a leveler of knowledge: it opens windows to curate knowledge and make it available to all without prejudice. Being ICT proficient will enable our youths to produce and export to the world technological innovations peculiar to our environment, and stand them in good stead in a global competitive ecosystem. China, Taiwan, South Korea, and India are sterling examples of nations that rode on the back of information technology to the global stage and got applauded for their efforts and ingenuity. We too can do it.

To Be Continued………….

–      Elvis-Wura Towolawi

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