Risky bet: Youth unemployment, frustrations a ticking time bomb

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By HENRY MUNENE
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In 1957, a teenager called Ted excitedly informed his father that he had decided to study Classics at Brown University.

And instead of an understanding, polite and fatherly response, Ted’s father fired back a harsh satirical letter.

“I think you are rapidly becoming a jackass, and the sooner you get out of that filthy atmosphere, the better it will suit me,” the letter read in part.

In retaliation, the ever self-assured Ted published the letter in the college newsletter, with a mental note that he would prove the old man wrong someday. Which he did, in a big way!

Today, Ted Turner, the founder of Cable News Network (CNN) is not only a billionaire media magnate, he is the toast of the media entrepreneurship circles, with a staggering $2.21 billion (about Sh221 billion) fortune.

Such is his bubbly optimism that he once told Readers Digest that CNN “will be here to cover the end of the world”.

The case of Ted Turner pretty much sums the Kenyan situation today, where the youth are struggling against all odds to succeed, with little or no understanding, or help.

We celebrate and brag about them when they start driving even before they start working, without even caring to find out where they get the money. This, obviously, exerts on them a kind of pressure that is killing many of them when they go running after quick cash from rich and powerful married men and crime.

We heighten this by tacitly frowning on honest living, hard work and generally taking the stairs of life, if these values do not bring millions into our lives.

Every year, we split Standard Eight and Form Four graduates into failures and stars, sometimes leading to cases of suicide. It is not any sunnier for them in colleges. Where university students of yesteryear were considered the cream of society, for whom government paid for everything, today many students cannot affordable a decent life.

To maintain the campus ‘swag’, the girls have to date old, moneyed politicians, as the men dabble in crime.

Even those who don’t care for a flashy lifestyle have to do it if only to get their rightful marks in exams. It is a stressful life, which sees many spend endless hours chewing uncooked leaves, or quaffing illicit brews in dingy dens off campus.

Once out of campus, more than a million of them join the ranks of the unemployed. And instead of the captains of industry and the universities working together to craft courses that are aligned to the needs of the world of work, we wait for these young men and women to graduate then launch into endless lamentations about how half-baked they are.

I daresay it is all a ploy to deny them their rightful share of the national cake. Nothing sums up the attitude of the Kenyan society to the youth better than the fact that the Jubilee administration, which rose to power on youthful and digital affectations, recycles many retired and failed politicians with appointments.

This is scandalous. Our cavalier attitude to youth welfare becomes more painful when a Cabinet Secretary glibly recommends that those who have not paid their higher education loans should be arrested.

Again, in a country where a quarter of the budget sinks into an abyss every year, we seem to reserve the highest rapacity for anything meant for the youth – National Youth Service, the Kenya Youth Fund, and so on.

True, a third of all government tenders is reserved for the youth, women and people with disabilities.

But the cartels have long found a way of fronting well-connected people in these categories to unlock deals for themselves.

It is only when things go wrong that you see a few young men and women paraded in courts, perhaps to leave no doubt how unwise it is to give tenders to the youth.

And so the yawning wealth gap across generations and social classes continues to morph into a ticking time bomb. Crime soars, with increasingly more teenage boys braving bullets from trigger-happy shadowy cops.

In major towns, girls risk their lives spiking club patrons’ drinks. They cosy up to you and before you know it, you have no phone, cash or car keys.

Folks, we long made our bed when we refused to find time to talk to our children. When the school holidays were extended, we complained that it would be very expensive to spend a month with them.

Of course some find time on Sunday afternoon, but only to take the family to the bar, where they drink lots of alcohol as the kids play.

So, like Ted Turner’s dad, we selfishly feel like puking on our way home whenever they chart a path for their lives the best way they know how, instead of helping them lead long, meaningful lives.

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