We Can No Longer Take The Youth For Granted.

The world is increasingly youthful and we need to take note of that. 15.8 percent of the global population and 19.2 percent of Africa’s population is between ages 15-24 years of age. To bring it closer to home, over 60 percent of Kenya’s population is under the age of thirty five years of age and according to the US based Population Reference Bureau, 20.3 percent of Kenyans are between ages 15 – 24 year; a staggering 10.1 million young people.

Youth is a challenging time in life. One is no longer a child to be coddled yet not stable enough to live on their own and be their own person. It is a time that demands a delicate balance of freedom and discipline, accompanied by a lot of teaching and training to speed up growth and true independence. The young people are seen as difficult to deal with because they feel the world owes them yet many don’t want to work hard for anything.

After hearing this complaint repeatedly, it bothered us long enough that we begun interrogating why. In all truth, the older generation has a very specific attitude to the youth and many feel they are too entitled. Many want the best life could give them with the least amount of effort. Many want the one hundred thousand shilling salary putting in a little as possible into their work day. They don’t want to get tired or bored but still make top dollar and be the best in their field. They believed that their education would be enough to quickly get very well-paying jobs with decision making power and when all this didn’t work they really complain.

In reality, the real challenge with the youth is that they are largely unprepared for life. I know it sounds too simplistic but think about it this way. If they knew just a little of how life actually worked they would prepare better able and adjust faster to its realities. It is time parents, guardians and mentors took an honest look at themselves to see if they were helping ground the young ones around them and prepare for them life.

The most unprepared segment of the youth is the young men. For decades we have pushed the women empowerment agenda and the girls got to do lists of chores yet we haven’t left much for the young me to do. As they figured how to accomplish all their chores and still play, the girls leant planning, forecasting, focus, time management and cause and effect from a very young age. On the other hand, the boys are milling around and playing or just chilling and then at eighteen they are told to man up, grow up, make a living yet they don’t have any useful skills.

It is our strong belief that as we empower girls we must do the same for the boys. The young men desperately need life skills. These are skill sets that are the difference between success and average living. They include self-worth and identity, planning, focus, budgeting and financial management, negotiation, risk assessment, saving and relationship building. These skill sets allow them to assess situations, adjust to the challenges and pivot to things that will work or at least allow them to make headway.

Life skills are most successful when they are habits that we live by. They are better absorbed and implemented when taught all through life rather than as crash courses at the end of high school in readiness for university. This means that parents, guardians and mentors need to start teaching the skills earlier in their charges lives. Ironically, these skills cannot be forced rather they are taught by example and so if one is lacking in a skill they cannot effectively teach another.

The environments we raise our children in determine how they learn and we must intentionally create and expose the young people to situations that will force them to apply the things we have discussed as they watch us apply and course correct as needed. The ability to try and fail in a safe space means that they learn faster and are able to prepare for when they need to pivot out there. The day we teach our young people that failure is one of life’s greatest classrooms that will help us reach our goals, we will have achieved more than increasing national GDP because they will be able to deal with anything life sends their way.

So, are the youth a nuisance to us anymore? No! They are an untapped resource that seems destructive but if harnessed isn’t. If we all make a point to share our lives in ways they understand the challenges then we demonstrate how we get up and on every day they will understand, imitate and be able to do the same.

Let us teach the youth how to thrive.

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