Salone News

Why Blame the Youths?

26 October 2006 at 21:09 | 444 views

Commentary

By John Wyse, Freetown.

The sub-section of our population that is normally blamed for the cataclysm that has befallen our nation is the youths.

Among the various factors which are said to be responsible for the plight of youths, crude national politics has the highest rating. The scenario is such that the SLPP party has put the blame squarely on the APC for everything the youths have done and what has happened to them. But do you know that this is mere crude and mud slinging politics? For all we know the break down of the rule of law does not come about as a result of the switching on of an automatic button. The collapse of law and order has been a gradual process.

This is where the first coup in this country came into question. Barely six (6) years after independence, brigadier Lansana and his men including Chief Norman plunged the country into the first public disorder. This was where the rain started beating us. So each coup and counter coup we have had in this country, saw the Lansana example and one may want to ask whether the status quo would have been different today, had that coup not taken place. The answer is an emphatic yes.

It was that coup that first signaled to all Sierra Leonean that the SLPP wanted to stay in power even though they had lost the 1967 elections. Upon reflection, the coup can be seen as a reflection of the one party rule Sir Albert Margai could have established had his government won the elections. When the APC took over power in 1968, they immediately built on the foundation already prepared for them by the SLPP. This was never the right thing to do but what seemed common among politicians was the propensity to stay in power. The desperate campaign mood of our V.P is something to watch as it replicates the old moods. The frequent clashes between youths of the SLPP and PMDC shows that youths have continued to be vectors of chaos when they are manipulated by people they see as their leaders.

In the 11 year rebel war, it was no secret that 90% of the perpetrators were youths who working under the influence of drugs were propelled into action and the consequences are there for us to see. In addition to the drugs, the youths were provided with weapons and the training necessary for the infliction of pain and mayhem on innocent civilians. What the DDR programmes however did was the taking of weapons out of the reach of combatants while the drugs remained with them. Efforts were made to reintegrate about 45,000 combatants into our communities but were this reintegration programmes ever evaluated? In many cases, in order to enhance these programmes, the combatants were provided with fast track training in a range of skills from carpentry to computer skills.

But if I may ask, was six months enough to make youths competent trades men and women? Was there any follow-up to even know whether any of those who went in for computer training gained any employment? The programme lacked continuity since most of them found their skills grossly inadequate, they then simply sold out the scanty tools they received. And indeed some of them did complain that their tool boxes were virtually empty. So there was no motivating force to see them through their various skills.

For some who attempted to start practice found it impossible to compete with the craftmanship of people in the same trade, so they too relapsed into the unemployment pool. As for those who went into driving we see how most of them perform. A large number of the female combatants went into gara production but they too cannot now compete with gara-like materials that have been brought in by the Chinese which are cheaper and even more attractive. Let us leave the ex-combatants and turn to other youths. If you think youths are as useless as most people unfortunately believe, create a job and invite applications.

The Rokel Bank in April this year organized an exam for applicants; well over 200 youths turned up. The Bank management thought the best way to reduce the number was to ask them to go back and fetch their certificates.In the a space of one hour, the number even increased; in the final analysis, only about 20 vacancies were available. The rest are roaming the streets in search of jobs.

Unfortunately, they are usually considered idle and lazy. Sometimes people in authority are so sarcastic about youths that the only thing they think youths can do is to pick up their hoes and cutlasses and go to the bush and suffer. Some youths are idle around the city but the circumstances surrounding their lives are such that they do not even have homes or relatives to go back to. The only way out of this quagmire is for government to create a conducive environment for a more vibrant private sector economy.

We already have a lot of skilled youth in the job market, so providing jobs for them is far more urgent than training more youths and compounding the problem of unemployment. The lyrics in the songs of our youths reflect disappointment and frustration. They are protests songs that should not just be dismissed with criticism; they should be seen as bridges through which we can reach them and treat them as human beings and not as tools that should be used and discarded. So why do we blame the youths for a situation they alone did not create? Think again.

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