By Byron Mutingwende
It is often said that investing in youths creates a better generation but young people are not always given the opportunity for full participation in development programmes.
“Youth participation in politics at the moment is being driven by personalities rather than issues and content-related matters. Over the years our political parties have created big personalities like Robert Mugabe, Morgan Tsvangirai and Joice Mujuru among others. As a result of this, youth issues are being swept aside at the expense of massaging the egos of personalities other than addressing pertinent issues,” said Ashton Bumhira, the Programme Manager of Youth Forum Zimbabwe.
Overall, the participation of youths in politics is very low, despite the fact that this demographic group constitutes over 60% of the Zimbabwean population.
Linda Masarira, the aspiring Member of the House of Assembly for Harare Central constituency, echoed Bumhira’s sentiments. Masarira bemoaned the closed political space in the country, which she said was more patriarchal and favoured those with liberation war credentials ahead of the youth and women.
“There must be a quota system in all decision making positions to allow the youths to be in the driving seat in every constituency. Some Parliamentary seats must be reserved for the youth. There is need for disabled persons to be represented fairly form grassroots leadership positions to national level. All political parties must reserve a certain percentage for youth representation and a quota system for young women in all contested positions in all political party
structures and government ministries,” Masarira said.
Tokenism is destroying informed youth participation in politics and young people are not able to be part of decision making in party politics. The low engagement rates of youths in the political arena was noted and attributed to the lack of an enabling environment that encourages participation of youth in politics at community, national and continental levels.
The notion that youths have to be participants in politics as supporters of political parties which has often led to the youths taking a back seat in the decision making processes at community and national levels remains a challenge. Generally politics does not cater for people who are differently abled like the hearing impaired. There are no people who do sign language in politics.
MacDonald Munyoro, the Coordinator of the National Association of Youth Organisations (NAYO) Zimbabwe blamed political violence and the lack of political tolerance as the major hindrance to sustainable peace in Zimbabwe and in Africa as a whole. He made the remarks while giving presentations of findings from the African Union (AU)-European Union (EU) Youth Summit Consultations ahead of the youth meeting held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast recently.
Munyoro alluded to other factors hindering peace and security in the country and on the continent.
“The lack of the source of livelihoods and lack of skills do lead to the youth to be easily used to incite violence by those with political muscles. There is a lack of proper support structures for youths who champion peace initiatives in Zimbabwe and in the African Union region, which deals a major blow to peace and security. Funding remains limited to support youth peace-building work. Drug and substance abuse also aggravates violent behaviours among the youths. Electoral violence also remains high across Africa,” Munyoro said.
As a panacea, he said youth led-solutions, intercultural dialogue, inclusion and innovation were necessary for promoting peace. He called for the creation of more safe spaces for young people to participate in peace building initiatives.
There is need for a peaceful environment especially during elections. Young people need to feel safe when participating in election processes; they need to be free from abductions, harassments and torture. It is important to reform regional structures like the AU Commission to have an influential representation of youths who also sit at the decision-making table and debate issues and influence decisions. We need increased political will from governments to uphold United Nations and AU resolutions that promote peace.”
Mlondolozi Ndlovu, a Harare-based youth said given the economic situation, education is too expensive for a nation where people battle to put food on the table.
“With the current formal unemployment rate estimated to be over 80%, people now find it difficult to invest in education. In as much as there are many benefits attached to academic excellence to better people’s economic positions, we are faced with a situation where tertiary institutions are churning out graduates with no industries to absorb them. That depends the spirit of investing in youth education,” Ndlovu said.
The unfair and inconsistent policies on education that leave youths behind must be reviewed. The pupil-student ratio in schools still remains high. This affects the SDG Agenda on education, with particular emphasis on SDG4, as a single teacher gives more students attention.
Education is the key pillar of any country but in Zimbabwe, a little budget is allocated towards education. Access to primary and secondary education is limited especially for the girl child with 1 out of 4 girls not continuing with their secondary education due to varied reasons. Teachers are not equipped; they do not have the skills to deal with special needs children. Schools for people with disabilities (PWDs) are expensive. Most people cannot afford sending differently abled children to such schools. PWDs are disadvantaged during the times of examinations.
There is need to allow synergies and education exchange programmes in entrepreneurship between African and European students and also between teachers. The governments in Africa must invest in education so as to achieve free education for the young people. Teachers need to be well remunerated for better and quality service delivery to the education system. There were calls for de-politicizing scholarships given to students to further studies; prioritizing budgetary allocation to education ahead of other sectors and to improve infrastructure in the sector that is in line with STEM and technological advancement.
To improve the business environment and promote job creation, youths called for the establishment of the ease of doing business reforms. Company registration procedures were hindering the youths to start their own enterprises.
Lovemore Chinoputsa, the Secretary-General of the MDC-T Youth Assembly said the politicisation of funds availed to support youth led enterprises marginalises youths.
“If you look at the Stanbic Bank $20 million loan facility for youths, some loans were given to undeserving candidates, including a members of parliament. The Youth Development Fund administered by other banks like CABS tended to favour bogus projects by youths aligned to the ruling party Zanu (PF), a situation that led to defaulting in loan repayment,” Chinoputsa said.
The harsh economic environment is also mentioned as not conducive for business and job creation as there is a high cost of doing business. The lack of political will on the government’s part was also noted as contributing to lack of youth in business, for instance, the 51/49% indigenization policy stipulation. The youths are also not taught to create jobs and run businesses. In addition, taxes are too high for young people in business yet there is no tax justice and corruption is on the rise.
Cases of early marriages are rising as a result of poverty and there are calls to curtail the price at the policymaking level. There is need to support the arts industry.
Youths are not being pro-active in environmental issues and in preserving their environment hence is critical to formulate policies that leave no youth behind in promoting and preserving the environment at national and continental levels.