As our continent comme-morates Africa Youth Day marked annually on November 1, it is very sad to note that for the last couple of years there has been very little improvement in the living conditions for youths in our country.
Sunday View with Zechariah Mushawatu
Zimbabwean youths, who constitute the bulk of our population, are the demographic group which has borne the brunt of economic hardships since our country began cascading into an economic crisis in the late 1990s.
The economic malaise induced by a combination of corruption, bad governance and external forces, left youths reeling from the effects of a myriad of challenges directly or indirectly linked to high levels of poverty.
Ever since the crisis begun, the government has done very little to address the woes of youths and very much to perpetuate their suffering by implementing laws and policies which are inimical to the realisation of every youths’ biggest aspiration — gainful employment.
Hordes of youths roam the streets jobless and are now taking to substance abuse as a means of getting by. Many youths living in the rural areas have become a burden to their parents and guardians, since they continue being provided for even though they have reached an age at which they are expected to fend for themselves.
In urban areas, many educated youths with a wide range of educational qualifications can be found selling airtime or phones at street corners, while some of them have become just idlers roaming suburban streets, most of them up to no good.
The state of being poor has left many female youths susceptible to sexual exploitation by financially capacitated men.
Many female youths, among them students, have had no choice but to accept sexual overtures from rich older men for financial gain, while some of them have resorted to outright prostitution.
This has resulted in the great number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unwanted pregnancies that have caused further suffering to many female youths.
Their male counterparts, when the worst comes to the worst opt to become touts at bus terminuses and ranks where they spend half of their day playing cat-and-mouse games with the police.
The government’s solutions to the litany of problems bedevilling the country’s youths, mainly captured in the youth policy which has been present since the year 2000, have dismally failed to improve youth’s plight.
Having recently entered a new political dispensation ushered in by the harmonised elections held on July 31, one would hope that the presence of a new government would result in better conditions for youths.
However, at the risk of being labelled a doomsday cultist, I strongly hold that any hope for the improvement of the conditions of youths in the next five years is a forlorn one.
The government’s initiatives aimed at improving the youth’s lot such as loans being given under the youth fund have thus far benefitted and will continue to benefit a minute fraction of the youth population.
Meanwhile, the country’s numerous learning institutions, like machines producing and stockpiling products that have no ready market, continue to churn out thousands and thousands of graduates every year onto a flooded job market.
In light of all these problems affecting youths, any government policy implemented in the next five years that does not result in massive job creation will be an ostrich strategy — a strategy that pretends that a problem doesn’t exist in the hope that it will go away.
The government’s major priority in the next five years should be job creation.