17 July 2012

Zimbabwe: Time to Take Care of Our Youth


It has been a very frustrating year for many young people who fail to get an opportunity to do something useful either during vacation or waiting to commence further studies. School leavers, with no road map, are resigned to be staying at home without anything youthful to do.

Recently, I came across a series of articles being published in a South African newspaper titled, "Each One, Hire One". Various people mainly in the corporate sector have written articles on what is required to create jobs, especially for young people.

The recent article was on how to get young people into various programmes to prepare them for eventually getting jobs or following their chosen academic fields. Here in Zimbabwe, we seem not to care about doing something for the young people.

I have tried with limited success to get university students to get attached to companies while they are on their three-month vacation. Our indigenous executives do not seem to understand that these young people will be the future executives.

Surely it would be more acceptable if executives could take some of the students to learn more about how business is run by doing odd jobs and running errands. Before my daughter could go for her Masters degree in the United States, I found her an attachment with the Cancer Society who were wonderful in giving her an insight into how an organisation is run. All I did was to give her an allowance since the organisation depends on donations for its operations. But it was not the remuneration that she wanted, but the experience of working in an organisation.

There are many parents who can afford to approach organisations for their children to gain much needed experience necessary to prepare these students for life ahead. But many companies can afford to employ these students on a casual basis for just a few months. Besides getting the feel of the business sector, the students could also get pocket money.

Another aspect is when companies sponsor students to work in the community. Some years ago medical students used to organise themselves into groups and visited clinics around Harare to assist with the treatment of patients as long as there was a municipal doctor to supervise the students.

Of late, this has been replaced by attachment to district hospitals under the supervision of their lecturers. But, there are also other fields that could welcome students as long as they are under supervision. One field is the business sector where students could learn about the intricacies of running companies.

In South Africa, there are organisations that have been set up to do research on requirements for young people before they could get employed. One researcher stated, "there are things that we need to understand about young school leavers. One of them being that they are, by and large, an energetic, optimistic and forward-thinking group."

Even those pursuing further education, they are very articulate and more mature than their parents when they were at the same age. Now with the latest in information technology, they are way ahead of the contemporaries who want to advance further in the academic field. I have been impressed by teachers at one private school who allowed their A' Level students to be attached to a hospital. These students had indicated that they wanted to pursue a career in medicine. Every weekend or afternoon, these students wear their white coats and spend time in children's wards.

It is not that these students do not have other activities like sport. They find time to do all these activities like playing their favourite sport. One of these students, a tennis player, finally got a place to study medicine at the local university. Some of these students have left the country to pursue their studies. The experience they had visiting the hospital and spending time with sick children, was very valuable in their lives.

Countries including Australia, Sweden and Cuba, to mention just a few, have outdoor programmes for their young people. During school holidays, students are introduced to many activities at sports centres equipped with the latest technology such as computers and cameras to make documentary films for the communities they live in. Local authorities run these centres assisted by sports clubs and sports associations. Not only that, many parents, retired or still active, volunteer their time to spend with the youth and teach them various trades which do not cost much to set up.

Companies that have no capacity to give temporary attachment to these youths donate materials for use at the centres. This is an inexpensive way of making sure that the youth have something tangible to do as they pursue their studies or embark on looking for employment. It is not an option just to fold our arms and look up to governments to solve every social problem for us. These programmes really make a difference to the young people's lives.

Taking sport as an example, many school leavers have become coaches and are earning a living by coaching at sports clubs and in schools. There is no reason why some could embark on small-scale business enterprises after going through these centres.

It is the responsibility of parents to push for the establishments of these centres and to make contributions to the running costs. But residents associations should not just criticise local authorities without putting forward workable ideas to make sure that our youths become the pride of our nation.

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