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December 11, 2018

What youths do and their values polar opposites

Youth attend the National Youth Forum at Safaricom stadium in Kasarani, 2014. /FILE
Youth attend the National Youth Forum at Safaricom stadium in Kasarani, 2014. /FILE

In 2016 the East African Institute of the Aga Khan University released the findings of a youth survey conducted in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi. The findings were received with both despair and hope.

According to the survey, 53 per cent of youth in the four countries were unemployed. About 80 per cent of youth aged 18-20 who were not in school were unemployed. About 63 per cent of rural women are unemployed. About 50 per cent East African youths with university education were unemployed.

Circa 53 per cent of the youth said they would like to go into business. Less than 25 per cent expressed interest in pursuing traditional careers in medicine, engineering or education. Only 12 per cent said they would take up farming as a full-time vocation. The survey shows that youth who had the strongest interest in business and farming had no more than primary education. Moreover, 54 per cent more youth with primary education reported they were self-employed compared to youth who have attended university.

Over 80 per cent of the youth surveyed valued faith first. Hard work and family were ranked first among 50 per cent of the youth. The youth also indicated that wealth and freedom were important values for them. The values of faith, family and hard work are largely founded in the Abrahamic faiths of Islam and Christianity, which are the dominant religious traditions of East Africa.

With the exception of Rwanda, the survey findings on integrity set off alarm bells. In Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania parents, faith leaders and civil society were befuddled by the apparent contradiction between the values youth profess and how they act. The survey findings raise concerns about the moral character of the future generation.

Between 30 and 45 per cent of the youth believed corruption was profitable and would readily give or take a bribe; over 50 per cent of the youth believed it didn’t matter how one made money as long as one didn’t end up in jail. Moreover, 60 per cent did not believe it was important to pay taxes. In contrast, only less than 10 per cent of Rwandan youth believed corruption was profitable and would give or take a bribe. About 20 per cent believed it didn’t matter how one made money as long as one didn’t end up in jail.

Rwandan youth were the most optimistic about the future. Over 70 per cent believing that their country will be richer materially with better access to quality education and jobs. Tanzanian youth were the most pessimistic. Less than 35 per cent of the youth believed the country will be wealthy materially with more jobs for youth and that hard work would be rewarded. About 60 per cent believed Tanzania would be poorer in ethics and values, and more youth would engage in substance abuse.

This Saturday, March 11, the East African Institute will bring together youth leaders from Kenya, Uganda Rwanda and Tanzania to grapple with the moral, ethical and governance imperatives for just, prosperous, inclusive and equitable societies.

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