Creating opportunities for the youth's self-reliance: The Kwara approach

Date: 2016-04-01

Creating opportunities for the youth’s self-reliance: The Kwara approach In the face of rising unemployment in the country, concerned citizens are seriously worried about how to mobilize the youth to engage in economic activities that will promote their self-reliance. Some say that youths should be encouraged to discover their latent capacities and engage in productive activities that could facilitate their self-sufficiency. In line with this particular thinking, a youth stakeholders' meeting was recently convened in Ilorin to address issues relating to youth unemployment, youth restiveness and poverty reduction, particularly among the youth.

The meeting tagged "Kwara Youth in 2016" was organized by Kwara State's Ministry for Sports and Youth Development, with "Creating a Sustainable Youth Development and Self-Reliance" as its theme. The stakeholders at the meeting suggested several ways through which the youth could be meaningfully engaged and empowered. Prof. Hassan Salihu of the University of Ilorin, who chaired the meeting, said that youth unemployment was a weighty issue that should be a source of concern to everybody.

Salihu, a professor of political science, underscored the need for the stakeholders to meet and discuss periodically until lasting solutions are found to youth restiveness and poverty, which he described as products of unemployment. He emphasized that youths could be agents of transformation or destruction, depending on the way they were treated by the society. He said that challenges facing youth development included the lack of sufficient information about potential areas that could be explored by the youth, the white-collar job syndrome, the youths' unwillingness to take risks and their perception of government, among others.

Going from the general to the specifics, Salihu advised the government to always sensitize the youth to several opportunities currently existing in the solid minerals sector, particularly in Kwara State. He, however, faulted the mind-set of some youths who believed that they could only survive by securing a government job, saying that those youths were not aware of the fact they could make more money in different technical and vocational trade areas.

He noted that the unwillingness of many young Nigerians to take risks had impeded the level of their development and self-reliance. He, therefore, urged the youth to change their perception about government and see government as an agency that could only create an enabling environment for them to survive. "Our philosophy about government has to change. Government cannot provide everything except the basic duty of providing infrastructure and security. "As long as we continue to see government as an agency that will provide everything, then the problem (high unemployment rate) will continue to exist.

"Government has its own duties, while the citizens have their own responsibilities. Our youth should only see the government as an agency that can assist them by creating an environment that is conducive to their survival,’"he said. However, Mr Ayo Ajisefinni, the Provost, Enterprise Glooming Institute, insisted that government should engage in capacity building activities for the youth. He described a situation where government cut the proposed budget for youth development activities as counterproductive. He said that whenever such proposed allocations were slashed, the amount subsequently approved and released were often inadequate to make any meaningful difference.

Ajisefinni, nonetheless, urged the youth to change their mind-set with regard to white-collar jobs, saying that they should instead redirect their efforts to entrepreneurial activities, as there was a dearth of government jobs nowadays. Also speaking Mr Kazeem Adekanye, the President of the Kwara State chapter of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), solicited the domestication and implementation of the National Policy on Youth Development. He argued that the religious implementation of the policy would serve as a panacea to several youth related issues.

Besides, Adekanye called on the government to encourage youth participation in government by involving them in policy making and decision making processes. "If we are setting up a framework for youth development and youths are not involved in decision making, it is a sheer waste of time,’’ he added. Some youths, who spoke at the meeting, wanted the government to create a sustainable means of funding their business proposals. However, Mr Olusegun Soewu, the Technical Adviser to Gov Abdulfatah Ahmed on Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs), said that the state government had approved over N6 million for SMEs.

He, therefore, urged the youth to come up with plausible and implementable business proposals to enable them to get government’s funding. Soewu said that the fund was put in place for traders and artisans as well as those who wanted to engage in agriculture, mining and transport, among others. Besides, the governor’s aide said that acres of land had been cleared and seedlings made available for those youths who wanted to engage in farming. Soewu, nonetheless, noted that many of the business proposals that were submitted for government's funding failed to sail through because of the insincerity of the applicants.

"For instance, an applicant could write a proposal for a business, purportedly worth of millions of naira, whereas what is needed to set up the business may be just a few thousands of naira," he said. All the same, Mr Babatunde Salami, the Regional Manager of First Bank of Nigeria Plc., said that the lack of technical education in the country's educational curriculum was also responsible for the rising rate of unemployment. He stressed that the curriculum of university education was predominantly theory-based, with little or no room for practical applications.

"Nigeria has a 25-per-cent unemployment rate, which translates to 45 million unemployed persons. There is a great need for the re-orientation of our youths as to where they intend to be in the nearest future. "Our economic diversification efforts should be targeted at agricultural and mining sectors, with a paradigm shift from oil revenues," he said. Mr Albert Timothy, the State Director of National Directorate of Employment (NDE) in Kwara, however, expressed the readiness of the agency to partner with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or individuals on skills’ acquisition programmes.

He said that NDE had trained more 20,000 persons in the state under various skills acquisition schemes of the Federal Government. He emphasised that the beneficiaries were also empowered with various working tools.

Timothy urged the youth to jettison their penchant for white-collar jobs and instead, embrace entrepreneurial activities. He said that Federal Government had established a skills' acquisition centre in each of the three senatorial districts of the state in order to assist youths who were eager to acquire productive skills.

Meanwhile, Mr Musa Yeketi, Kwara State's Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development, said that the state government had restructured the curriculum of its educational institutions to incorporate technical education, as part of designed efforts to tackle unemployment in the country. He said that the policy thrust of the Abdulfatah Ahmed-administration was skills' acquisition and human capital development, adding that this led to the establishment of International Vocational Centre in Ajase-Ipo.

"It is now mandatory for schools in the state to choose two or three trades to teach their students, in which government would set up workshops for them. "There must, however, be a change of mind-set among our youths to understand the fact that government work is no longer available for everyone," he said. Yeketi also said that school sports would be revived in the state, as part of efforts to empower the students for future.

All in all, analysts believe if the current youth empowerment strategies of the state government are sustained, the unemployment rate in the state will soon be reduced considerably. (NANFeatures) **If used, please credit the writer as well as News Agency of Nigeria (NAN)


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