YOUTH EMPLOYMENT

Kazi Mtaani initiative good but misdirected

Recruiting people with good academic credentials to do menial work makes a mockery of our education system.

In Summary

• The fact that it enables people to eke out a living and enhances environmental cleanliness is commendable.

• While the government can continue the project, it needs to reevaluate its objectives by, for instance, initiating large-scale agricultural programmes and having the same youths work on farms. 

Youths at work in Kiandutu slums in Thika on Wednesday, May 20, 2020
KAZI MTAANI: Youths at work in Kiandutu slums in Thika on Wednesday, May 20, 2020
Image: JOHN KAMAU

In efforts to provide the jobless youth with a gainful activity in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, the government has considered the Kazi Mtaani initiative as one of its interventions.

Under this national hygiene programme, young people are hired at the local level to clean up public spaces. However, it's becoming clear that this initiative, though well-intended, has no economic benefit to the country. The fact that it enables people to eke out a living and enhances environmental cleanliness is commendable. But beyond that, it has nothing good to offer. It is unsustainable and misdirected in its current state.

Recruiting people with good academic credentials to do menial work like slashing grass at the roadside and cleaning ditches makes a mockery of our education system and creates a burden of discouragement that could easily prompt many young people to drop out of school.

There are established state agencies such as the Kenya National Highways Authority  that should be concerned with the state of our roads and road reserves, including being in charge of sanitation work. They are allocated money from the public coffers. Therefore, Kenyans must be concerned about how their taxes are expended.

That aside, the initiative increases the country's wage bill without adding value to the economy. The government seemingly never consulted widely on this project and never had a long-term objective concerning the same.

While the government can continue the project, it needs to reevaluate its objectives by, for instance, initiating large-scale agricultural programmes and having the same youths work on farms. That would go a long way in promoting food security  a key pillar of President Uhuru Kenyatta's Big 4 Agenda. 

Those enrolled for the programmes would earn higher incomes while helping the country to have a food basket that meets the nutritional requirements of its population. This is essential, especially in tackling economic devastations well into the post-Covid-19 period.

As it stands, these young, energetic and knowledgeable Kenyans continue to waste time by the roadside duplicating other people's roles, yet earning from the public confers. It is surprising that in the middle of a pandemic, the government is prioritising such kinds of activities when there is a need for skilled manpower not only in the health sector but also in other sectors of the economy.

The Kazi Mtaani initiative should be reorganised to make it a self-productive and sustainable initiative whose outcomes can can develop other sectors of the economy while also meeting the financial needs of those involved.

Ochola K’ochola is an Environmental Planning and Management graduate and a current affairs commentator