By Steve Biko
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A man willing to work and unable to find work is perhaps the gloomiest sight that fortunes inequality exhibits under this sun and this seems to be the fate of the Kenyan youth as Thomas Carlyle aptly put it.
The unemployment rate stands at 48% officially (2009) and many argue that the rate could be as high as 70%.
But who is to blame for the grim fate that faces the Kenyan youth? Is it the government? Is their parents’ generation? Or lack of a mentorship environment that would enable them learn from others?
Several interviews have been carried out this week by various media houses targeting the youth and their quest for fame, wealth and riches. One disappointing thread did emerge; a majority of the Kenyan youth interviewed said they would love to swim with the sharks for quick gains and not sweat for anything.
What has taken our parents and guardians over 30 years to get, the Kenyan youth wants it in under three months by doing nothing but playing PS, going out and drinking and eating weed cookie as they tweet and facebook on how cool it is and frown upon those who are doing something about their environment; to make it better and move from poverty to wealth.
Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime and crime has indeed been prevalent in the country, especially in the last few months. All sorts of violence that has crossed the realms of humanity to bestiality and babies are all perpetrated by the so called youth.
This has been blamed on lack of jobs and unemployment. True, jobs are few and those created are in the informal sector. 78% of jobs created every year for the past ten years are in the informal sector. A sector that the Kenyan youth cannot associate with, as they find beneath their class, that they exhibit on social media platforms.
They find it degrading to their social status and dignity that they so pretend to hold as they tweet away.
I believe the youth hold the key to creating employment for themselves and others in this country, yet we squander this opportunity every single day.
The Uwezo Fund has come and it is about to be dispensed with and the Kenyan youth continued tweeting and sexting as the government sought their views on how to implement this fund that would ultimately create 1 million direct jobs and another 3 million indirect jobs to the youth through entrepreneurship.
But yet again, the Kenyan youth will ask you, what is entrepreneurship? We seem to have an affinity for employment and its benefits that holds them hostage as the chalice of debt finds comfort around their necks. I believe 70% of the Kenyan youth know more about socialites in Kenya than we know about entrepreneurship and its benefits.
This government has presented us with opportunities as youth that if we could larch at them, then no one would stop us. The Uwezo Fund, The Youth Fund, the various business opportunities in the 47 counties, not to mention the Sh450 billion that the president just signed with the Chinese for our economy, transport and wildlife.
These are huge opportunities that only entrepreneurship can be able to activate and create the needed jobs and wealth.
Materialism coarsens and petrifies everything, making everything vulgar, and every truth false. We live in a society that promotes materialism and so we perpetuate this particular malady by instilling bad habits into our lifestyles. Being poor is now a curse.
We all act as if we come from rich backgrounds.
Having anything technologically short of an iphone, a blackberry, or a Samsung zoom, then you are a pariah to the youth society.
If you are a woman and of the dark and or chocolate skin hue or shade, then you will endure constant bullying for not measuring up to the SI unit of what a Kenya lady should be like; Light skinned and of a particular size, not more than 12.
If you don’t drive, or you don’t have a sophisticated taste in cigarettes, drinks, or weed cookies, then you deserve to stay in your lane, which is in the country side.
If you don’t get invites to the mingle, the circle, blankets and wine where the best of sexual escapades are experienced and those who missed out, jealously post them online and make a laugh out of it, then you don’t know what life is.
Our Kenyan youth want material gratification instantly like the microwave heating up tea in the morning without working for it. Someone once said: ‘We are the micro-wave generation.”
This has revealed an intellectual poverty that is ailing the youth and have resorted to online bullying of those who have the anti-dote to this malady by working hard, seeking mentorship from those they regard as role models and being creative and not being afraid to fail so as to succeed.
Education disparity among the Kenyan youth is telling. The 8-4-4 system seems to have trained all of us to be the best employees and the worst employers. We have a great affinity towards comfort and free benefits without wanting to break a sweat for anything. We glorify villains who have money and worship how they have acquired it and victimize those who have gotten all their wealth through their sweat and mistakes along the way.
I believe it’s because modern education is so seldom inspired by a great hope that it so seldom achieves great results. The wish to preserve the past rather than the hope of creating the future dominates the minds of those who control the teaching of the young.
As William Butler Yeats once said, ‘Education should not be the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.’ We have educated the minds of youth and forgotten to educate their hearts. We have taught our youth to value price and ignore value. We forgot to give them the anti-dote to intellectual poverty that no amount of freebies and grants from the government will cure.
It is evident that the Kenyan youth has no one to blame but themselves. Not the bad leadership and I say so because, if indeed the youth thought that this was a bad leadership, then, the wave of crime would have transcended into a revolution like that witnessed in North Africa. We as the youth have a complicated relationship with our leadership and no therapy will make us go out or dump the same.
It’s also clear that our parent’s generation is not to blame because I believe they never had a desire to be rich within months but cultivated their wealth through decades and due to our cancerous intellectual poverty, we fail to see this and instead behave like spoilt brats who have magic wands that can turn thoughts into reality.
Our situation at the crossroads is of our own making and we must pull ourselves from it or risk perishing forever. Our economy is yet to have any industrial revolution hence entrepreneurship will keep creating jobs and unless we embrace this, then we will participate in letting down the government in its quest to create more jobs for all of us. Our intellectual poverty is the malady that we suffer from and blinds us from all the opportunities that lie ahead for us and around us.
The Kenyan youth must resolve not to be poor: whatever you have, spend less. Invest more. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness; it certainly destroys liberty of thought and freedom of expression and this is seen in our online engagement with each other, and it makes some virtues impracticable, and others extremely difficult and this is seen in our affinity for crimes such as rape, bestiality et al and a degree of laziness that astounds many.
No one will save us but ourselves. Our parent’s generation has done its bit; it’s time for us to do ours; to eliminate this malady of intellectual poverty and steer our country to greatness.