Nigerian youths deserve sustainable future – Punch Newspapers


AS the global community celebrates this year’s International Youth Day, themed, “Green Skills for Youth: Towards a Sustainable World,” on Saturday, stakeholders have been strategising on the shift towards an environmentally sustainable and climate-friendly world and highlighting youths as the leading agents of change. With Nigeria estimated to have one of the highest youth populations in the world, the government, individuals, and agencies need to strongly position the country’s young citizens to catch up with the rest of the world.

The global transition towards a greener world is critical, not only for responding to the climate crisis, but also for achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Green skills are “knowledge, abilities, values, and attitudes needed to live in, develop and support a sustainable and resource-efficient society,” says the global body. Sadly, the world still awaits the substantive contribution of Nigerian youths because they are being hampered by various debilitating factors at home.

Experts draw a very strong linkage between the vibrancy of a country’s youth and national development. The World Bank adds that protecting and investing in young people builds human capital and enables them “to realise their full potential, sustaining long-term economic growth and preventing millions from falling into poverty.”

Most Nigerian youths however lack the requisite green, IT, and entrepreneurial skills needed in today’s knowledge-driven world. Data by Statista indicated that in 2020, only 68 per cent of youths in Nigeria had a secondary school education. While about 15 per cent had completed primary education, only 17 per cent pursued post-secondary education.

Unfortunately, many youths emerging from the country’s decaying public primary and secondary education system lack the necessary intellectual skills and resort to examination malpractices, result manipulation and numerous “miracle centres” promising dubious shortcuts into tertiary institutions.

Nigeria’s population is estimated by Worldometer at over 200 million. The youth segment at 157 million accounts for about 70 per cent of this; but tragically, about 53 per cent of them are currently unemployed, says the National Bureau of Statistics. Alarmingly, the global Spectator Index published in April shows Nigeria having the second-highest number of unemployed youths in the world, next only to South Africa’s 61 per cent.

The Nigerian environment is hostile to its youth; it lacks a strategic plan for youths such that even when they manage to go to school, they have no job and skills, thus consigning them to hopelessness and frustrating idleness.

With this, the great potential of the Nigerian youth to expand the country’s capacity as a global economic hub has been blunted. Lack of job opportunities has robbed the country of vast unexplored and under-utilised intellectual and material resources.

The #EndSARS protests of 2020 gave a voice to the disaffection of many youths of the country nurse against a system that has habitually betrayed them. More than two years after the mass protests, police brutality and harassment by security agents that provoked them remain a recurring nightmare. Human Rights Watch recorded 164 extra-judicial killings between January and September 2021 alone.

Even in tertiary institutions that ought to be a moral pipeline to prepare youths for a bright future, they are harassed, including sexually by some randy lecturers. Many youths hoping to become specialists in various fields fail to realise their dreams. In tertiary institutions, they encounter endless strikes that sap their productivity and creativity.

A huge moral rot has set in. There are no fewer than 874,000 sex workers across the country, Statista reported. One NGO estimates that no fewer than 10,000 people were killed in cult-related violence within and outside Nigerian campuses between 1996 and 2019.

Rape, drug abuse and peddling as well as internet fraud have become endemic. A UNODC report indicates that 14.4 per cent of Nigerians aged between 15 and 64 abuse drugs. In 2021, the UN tallied a total of 11,200 rape cases in Nigeria. The Women at Risk International Foundation, citing the findings of a national survey carried out in 2014, said one in four Nigerian females reported experiencing sexual violence in childhood.

Disenchanted with the dystopian state of the country, both the unskilled and young professionals are migrating at an alarming rate, while others leaving on foot are braving the scorching Sahara Desert and the raging Mediterranean Sea to make it to Europe.

Worse, the elderly politicians occupying spaces structurally designed for young persons, talk condescendingly about the youth, describing them variously as “lazy,” or “unemployable” or challenging them to become “job creators” in the arid, hostile environment they perpetuate. Unlike the First Republic politicians who prioritised youth development, the present leaders lack vision, patriotism or ennobling principles.

The missed opportunities are galling. When equipped with the right skills in a sustainable environment, Nigerian youths excel. Some have designed cars, invented solar energy tools, designed software applications and other tech products; others are achieving, academic, and scientific feats across the globe.

In a competitive world, Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind by other countries. China’s national government, in cooperation with local authorities, trainsits young people in modern vocational and entrepreneurial skills.

Germany’s innovative approach to education and career choices enables many youths to school part-time and work in relevant paid vocational fields part-time. US President, Joe Biden, has cancelled $10,000 each of student debt for low-to-middle-income families. The Swedish government specially provides education, employment, housing, and healthcare needs for its youth.

These countries also create spaces for youths to participate in decision-making. State governors, especially in the North, should prioritise education and take the 20 million out-of-school children and child beggars (almajiris) off the streets.

They should domesticate the Child Rights Act and enforce it. Youths need green and entrepreneurial skills to succeed. States and local governments should meet that need. Parents/guardians also have a role; they must return to the sound moral values that uphold society and stop encouraging their children to cheat in examinations. Faith-based organisations should step up moral rearmament and rehabilitation programmes targeting the youth.

All tiers of government should henceforth make the Nigerian youth as the fulcrum of development.


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