By Bwayo Ivan
Uganda as a country faces challenges of sustainable development due to the increasing rates of poverty among the school going youths who are actually the biggest population in the country, who are looked at as the foundation to development. The youths who enroll in schools, institutions and universities are increasing every day, evidenced from the increasing number of schools in the nation. We have all been looking at the children, people with disabilities and impairments, women, the most elderly, the orphans and street children as the most poor people in society, drawing the focus away from who the real poor are.
When we assess poverty, we are directly looking at what individuals do in order to earn incomes.Why do I focus about only the ‘school’ going youths ? Recently, I visited my former school Bubulo Secondary and others in both rural and urban areas, I did not see any enterprises being run by individual students as a source of income during their free time in school and after school. And, if there were any, I am sure they are not beyond 1%. I know when we talk about secondary school, people think; it is a level where students have to be totally dependent on parents, something that has charmed the young generations. Looking at the life styles of our friends the Indians, they allow their children to study but after school, they directly engage them in their business so that in as much as they study, they learn other skills like how to run a successful business.
I want to credit Junior Achievement Uganda (JA) an organization that aims at imparting entrepreneurial skills to students at secondary level. The organization’s visions if properly administered in the whole country to youths will be positive towards development. It is sad to hear that even those doing courses in business management graduate without any visible or viable project or business. Why haven’t we been seeing this poverty among these youth? What normally happens? A person spends seven years in primary studying four subjects, four years in ‘O’ level, 2 years in ‘A’ level and another minimum of three years at university striving to get a job. I am not saying studying is bad no, because personally I am also still studying. But my concern is about how we as youths have and are using our time at school.
Majority of the youths are taken up by pride at university. They try to show off to others that they are heroes, dons/rich and this has forced them into making unrealistic goals and living inappropriate lifestyles. A student decides not to miss any night club, or market day for shopping in the name of showing off. Many youth while at school dream of ‘white collar’ jobs mostly because these are jobs their parents have. They boost in what their parents have.
All they know is being driven to school every day, even make phone calls for food and pocket money. Some are husbands and wives to alcohol and betting. It seems permanently rooted in every youth’s mind that success will be achieved after school, a synopsis that has misled very many youths rendering them hopeless, choiceless and poor when things of course turn out contrary to their dreams. As students, we all hope to get jobs after graduation, but do we all get jobs? Even with the few jobs on the market, we find it difficult securing them because of the many restrictions that are put as requirements i.e. 3-5 years experiences; where would a fresh student graduation from university have gotten 3 years work experience?
If one can sit down and calculate the amount spent at school and what he/she would need to run a business venture, how would it be? But of course, knowledge and wisdom is very important. What has been done? I credit the government of Uganda and other NGOs through various programs that have been targeting youth development economically. For example, the youth funds, earmarked at sh. 265 billion meant to improve the poor and unemployed youths countrywide under youth livelihood.
The permanent secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development Mr. Pius Bigirimana explained that this program would be facilitated in every financial year where a total of sh. 53 billion would be provided in the budget to support the youth programs.The government further through institutionalisation, social service delivery improvements, feeder roads development, market expansion, political stability, rural electrification among other programs has tried to curb poverty among youths. Amidst all these strategies, the number of youths living under the poverty line is increasing. For us as youths, there is a lot to be thought about and done with or without help, money, land etc. for example operation wealth creation has good visions for both farmers and youths respectively if practically engaged.
We can look and copy those few youths that run businesses along side their studies however small they may be and we stop looking at the parents for survival and also stop thinking that we are going to get jobs immediately after studies. Students can run a bakery, video audio editing, diary production, poultry, honey production, post harvesting handling, metal fabrication and other income generating ventures.
It is time to think of how to develop ourselves and stop counting on the government. Let the government come in to aid or assist on what we already have and stop looking at it as the centre of our focus of development.
We can make it and we will make it provided we wake up from the sleep we are in and change our way of thinking economically.
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