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With surmounting challenges, the youth is faced with obstacles so profound, it would be criminal to ignore them from a developmental perspective.
While gender mainstreaming has become endemic in application to developmental work and programmes, youth issues seem to be an isolated realm whose concerns are confined to specialists in youth-related issues. But this is hardly the direction we need to take.

Instead, because of the development challenge that African countries face, the youth is arguably a key and strategic cohort whose inclusion in development is necessary and potentially rewarding.

Youth unemployment in the country is over 50 per cent in a society where the gini coefficient is 51.5 per cent (there is a high misdistribution of income). This suggests that few people have most of the wealth in the kingdom. As a result the have-nots find it difficult to rise up the rung to join the haves. The challenge assumes colossal proportion for female youths because of the unbalanced gender situation in Eswatini’s formal employment.

The future looks bleak for most young people from today’s standpoint. While fortune, technology and changes in economic and political outlook may change to the benefit of the youth, I contend that past initiatives and current conditions and policies do not paint a bright picture. At current levels there is a strong likelihood that most of the youth will find themselves in an awkward position in terms of formal employment, social protection, education and provision of social services.

The major problem for most young people stems from education (mostly in terms of quality) and employment (both qualitative and in terms of demand for labour). Education is currently provided for all at primary levels. However, despite high enrolment rates by African standards, the country faces a challenge downstream.

The enrolment rates drop as one considers secondary education and an even sharper decline ensues upon reaching tertiary level. This is not a recent trend, and with narrow policies and infrastructure to address the challenge, there is no reason to assume or anticipate significant positive change. While the general provision of education services is commendable, the youth is caught in a snare where they have an adequate provision of a ‘bad-tasting’ good. In other words, service provision of education is generally reasonable but of poor quality.

The dilemma in providing education of a level and quality which fails to inspire confidence both in customers and consumers is that it prompts them to settle for substitutes where possible. Hence the preference among employers for a candidate with a non-Eswatini qualification over one with an Eswatini certificate bears testament to the poor perception prevalent on the kingdom’s education standards.

What is required is a national policy on development beyond economic terms. This entails capturing the aspirations of the youth and then providing an enabling environment for the fruition of those aspirations.


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