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September 22, 2017

Prioritising youth is a duty, not a favour

President Uhuru Kenyatta dances with some of the NYS Cadets after their pass out parade on Thursday at Their Gilgil training college. /PATRICK VIDIJA
President Uhuru Kenyatta dances with some of the NYS Cadets after their pass out parade on Thursday at Their Gilgil training college. /PATRICK VIDIJA

A raft of ideals were clearly underlined in the #GPY2015, an initiative of the Office of the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth two years ago.

The essence of the ideals expressed in this seminal forum is summarised in key crosscutting and prominent terms in a report dubbed, “The Global Youth Call; Prioritizing Youth in the Post-2015 Development Agenda”. These terms include, inclusion, equity, skills, health, opportunity and dignity. The common thread of the desired virtues features a persistent quest for a better, empathetic, dignified, and fulfilling life.

Clearly, the youth are not all about rabble-rousing. However, at this point, one would be right to inquire what the root cause of nihilism, a system of thought that views life as lacking in objective meaning, purpose or intrinsic value, really was. Closer home, why do we have Sungu Sungu, Mungiki, Baghdad Boys and Chinkororo, to name just a few? So should we prioritise youth matters merely to escape the wrath of being at the mercy of reckless delinquents the day we are all wrinkles and toothless? I do not think so. There is a much higher calling to prioritising youth issues than self-preservation.

The lessons I have learnt since I walked into the NYS slightly over a year ago have opened my eyes and exposed to me fresh perspectives about the youth that are largely overlooked in the mainstream public service experience. Certainly, two, three or four children in a household are markedly different from 1,000 or 2,000 young men and women occupying the same space at the same time.

Now you can imagine the 15,000 recruits currently undergoing training at Gilgil. Add to that number the thousands of servicemen and women in national service and training programmes of the NYS. These numbers translate into a galaxy of possibilities, a resource with bottomless and diverse potential and a mosaic of collective dreams and expectations. Yet these young men and women also represent thousands of peers who share common dreams of a more hopeful tomorrow as well as the vulnerabilities of the youth of our times.

Why and how then should we prioritise matters youth?

The why is easier to see; our dreams and legacies ultimately manifest generations that succeed us. No normal person would willfully wish for a tattered future.

The how, though important, is a little obscure. In my view, we cannot plan for a better tomorrow for our youth if we ill understand the real causes that cause youthful restlessness within definite contexts. The key is in unpacking and empathizing with the causes of the fears, joys, fulfillment and frustrations the youth struggle with.

It is futile to plan for the youth. Instead, we should plan with the youth. The sense of ownership is everything given that life on earth is hopelessly finite. When you plan with, you are more likely to produce disciples as opposed to when you plan for. The spirit of give-and-take in negotiating the future of the youth is crucial.

Perceptiveness is a great virtue when it comes to imagining the future to which the young belong. To pierce into the future with all the pitfalls of making wrong moves takes the discipline of studying the past, probing the present and constructing what oftentimes is mere make-believe. But even in the mistakes one would make in chancing the unseen, there is the reward of possibilities untold. And in any case, dreaming is neither illegal nor an object of shame. It is the dreams we entertain today that will power tomorrow’s architecture, engineering, jurisprudence, whole curriculums — name it.

Each generation has a duty to bequeath the next one a decent posterity.

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