The debate and advocacy about opening or not reopening of schools and tertiary institutions has left many stakeholders perplexed and the fate of about 15 million learners at stake, leave alone 500,000 teachers, some of whom are privately employed hence earn only when they work. Moreover, some parents too are in desolation about the high cost of feeding while children are at home, and they can’t in fact contain the option of footing a fees bill of the same class next year.
Everyone is speaking in perspective of their situation and while each stakeholder’s view may be true according to their experience, schools and institutions will not open soon following a guidance statement by Minister of Education and Sports, Hon. Janet Kataha Museveni issued early July 2020. There’s even doubt whether the fees structure will be revised to a lower cost upon resuming school-knowing the economic up roars every nation is facing. Recessions are really difficult times where many people struggle economically. On the African continent, youth are predicted to suffer the most and recover last as well. How stakeholders react will determine the magnitude.
Talking about how the economy is affecting the youth can be seen from the brutal actions they are resorting to, to express their mischief. A case in point is the 29-year-old boda boda rider- Hussein Walugembe who set himself ablaze at a police station in Masaka after attempts to redeem his motorbike fell on deaf ears of Police Officers who allegedly were asking for UGX 50,000 or $40 (£32). It is absurd but a lot more is yet to happen if every stakeholder: parent, government, community and faith-based leaders do not address the plight of young people who make up 77% of Uganda’s population.
Unfortunately, as young people sink into oblivion, so, will the nation. From the World Bank blogs, coronavirus global recession will be the second with far diverse effects next to World War II, churning deep into every economy. International Labour Organization (ILO) and the World of Work report speculated 22 million full-time jobs to be lost in Africa between April-June 2020 alone. The African continent’s over 1.216 billion population workforce comprises 15-34-year-olds as the majority.
With the majority of the workforce being in the agricultural and informal sector, young people will feel the fierce effects of recession and probably be the last to recover. While private stakeholders play their part, donors and government will be paramount in uplifting the recession doom by:
Prioritising depth of impact over breadth of reach for youth formation programmes. Various model trainings have been implemented to grow entrepreneurial skills of youth though the approach has been more concerned about the breadth and not depth of such formations-output over impact. The season calls for re-thinking through previous economic strategies: pulling forward out what works, discarding what doesn’t. Different from the previous recession like 2007-09 where demand and supply were all at interplay, this recession will affect demand greatly.
Youth initiatives linked to demand or market-linked skills will survive as opposed to production for an unknown consumer who may or not appear. Likewise, provide non politically biased grants and loan schemes. Tax exemptions extended to foreign investors will equally do magic in revamping staggering enterprises. This also calls for consultative unemployment measures especially in the informal and NGO sectors.
Youth voices must be heard through round table discussions to enable them make decisions to boost fellow youth and all endeavours to empower them should be guided to a regional or global perspective. Let’s nurture necessity entrepreneurship and develop a business idea with young people now because the need is obvious. After all, some of the lasting businesses in the World like Uber started at a time of recession.
In fact, the young people are readily adaptive and proactive; their enthusiasm and adventurous nature will facilitate new products suiting the times.The ‘gene’ defining a youthful stage is desire for better and even in this time, the youth have the capacity to swim against the odds of a recess and merge victorious. They are dreamers who always strive to challenge the statuesque or notions limiting their success; seeking to surpass the current which sometimes the old perceive as arrogance. And since they are maturing in a century of ‘information-flood’, they can therefore learn so much without a classroom.
Families too can neutralise recession effects against young people and whole family by tapping into their swiftness and energy. This should be a resource to the family and not wish for their return to school- a ‘den’ of death. He who has people is richer than he who has money (African Proverb). Psalm 144: 12 highlights just how important it is to have young people: “May our sons be like plants growing tall from their earliest days, our daughters like pillars carved fit for a palace” (New Jerusalem bible). Surprisingly, the title of the psalm is war and victory.
There is a war ongoing, a war that every parent, family, young person, government is participating in involuntarily and that is ECONOMIC WORLD RECESSION. A family with more young people with resourceful labour if coordinated will thrive economically.
The Pearl of Africa is gifted by nature and savannah climate, though deforestation and other climate change factors are affecting it, investing in agriculture especially food stuffs will boost youth as well as the nation. Agriculture is and will still be our backbone. The World population will not do without food, if it’s not bought here, export will.
For now, let’s cling to a renowned educationist in Uganda, Fagil Mandy’s words as he was responding to those advocating for re-opening of schools. “Dead people do not sit examinations; you would rather stay at home and repeat the year.” The quality of a nation is its young people. Uganda needs us and we need it. Fight for us and with us.
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