Youth bulge a reality that needs to be addressed

Dennis Monirei, Public Relations Officer, Sathya Sai Schools – Kisaju,Kajiado County

By Dennis T. Monirei

Youth bulge is a reality that most countries contend with globally. It can present positive or negative consequences depending on how it is incorporated in the dynamic and complex web of knowledge and skills development as well as exposure.

In Kenya, Kajiado County, the youth remain the most dominant resource the county has, and will ever have in the foreseeable future. Yet, this is a segment of the country’s population that faces perennial challenges and risks, largely attributed to the state of the economy and gaps in skills.

Governments and non-state development stakeholders must devise relevant programmes, strategies and policies that directly address challenges and risks faced by the youth with utmost urgency. It is no longer a choice to optimally engage the youth in skills and knowledge development, but a necessity for developmental initiatives. Failure to provide appropriate and adequate opportunities for this population segment could have detrimental social, economic, cultural, and political repercussions – a terrible future.

Previous evidence shows that every year, Kenya sends about 500,000 to 800,000 youth into the labour force. In its efforts to provide relevant skills, the Kenyan government has made strides on the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) front. In 2017, the Government of Kenya, through the Ministry of ICT, implored the youth to sign up for an online work training on ICT, targeting 10,000 trainees, that was to be offered free of charge by the Ministry of ICT in partnership with the Rockefeller Foundation and Kenya Private Sector Alliance. Together with those spearheaded by the private sector, such initiatives have made Kenya a continental ICT and innovative hub, with more ICT innovations now traced to some counties, hence the name ‘Silicon Savannah.’ Indeed, this has yielded positive results for Kenyan youth’s’ digital skills although not evenly distributed.

A study by African Population and Health Research Center  (APHRC) on whole youth development (WYD) revealed that youth in Kenyan TVET institutions were more informed and knowledgeable on digital skills than other skills like functional literacy. The government and the private sector’s all-encompassing investment in ICT has set the stage for the country to become a hub for innovations’ meet up, incubator events, start-up weekends, and accelerators with a view of equipping the Kenyan youth with ICT skills needed in the labour force. Thus, Nairobi County has become a hub for US dollar millionaires keen on investing in innovative digital and ICT-related infrastructure aimed at solving striking societal challenges, as well as institutions such as Sathya Sai School Kisaju with similar objectives.

The government’s initiative in ICT has also led to notable innovations in education and communication. While some are at trial stages, others are in implementation phases with visible outcomes. Among them, Kenya Education Cloud, a government initiative aimed at offering comprehensive basic education virtually; Ubongo, which provides educational materials to early childhood and primary school learners; Eneza Education, a phone-based platform for learners and teachers to access and use learning materials; e-Limu, a mobile-app created to enhance learners’ literacy skills through videos and games. Others are M-Shule, Tunapanda, eKitabu, and Longhorn Publishers’ e-learning platform, among others.

While these innovations are noteworthy, they have a notable inadequacy. They are limited in access geographically and by cost implications, hampering their reach to targeted education stakeholders, primarily teachers and learners. There is an opportunity for the youth to influence the existing digital infrastructure and systems to build inclusive and affordable digital learning platforms that address these challenges, thus enhancing virtual learning for learners in marginalized settings like Kajiado County, particularly during Covid-19.

 Kenya, Kajiado has surplus youth out of employment, yet with visible ICT opportunities and gaps. To achieve the eighth Sustainable Development Goal, which calls for productive employment and decent work for all, it is not enough to call upon the youth to innovate and contribute solutions to challenges facing various sectors of the economy. We must also task the local governments with making these opportunities accessible.

Beyond schools there is a vital role for civil society, academia and business to play. Institutions such as Sathya Sai School Kisaju that are fully internet connected smart boards learning, are coming up with an ICT incubation centre for students, looking forward to partner with other willing parties like Safaricom, Huawei and with any other interested organisations thus will be in a position to provide research and context.

Like Sathya Sai School Kisaju other academic institutions can also plan to offer practical pathways for entrepreneurs as they leave school by delivering relevant training and mentoring.

The corporate sector also needs to be encouraged to nurture entrepreneurs in their companies. Gaining business experience is vital.

This is not a challenge that is going to be solved in isolation. Africa has one of the highest percentages of young people in the world – and they are eager to make a difference. Let’s find ways to take that energy and natural ability and collectively give them the tools and pathways they need to succeed.

The write is PRO Sathy Sai School.

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