Written by: Frederick H
In most cases, it is hard for young people to maximize their full potential, unless they figure out what their gift is and work on it consistently. Skills take up different shapes based on one’s gifts, ability, and talent. Thomas Wolfe famously said that
This year 2020, has presented us with complex situations. Data collected by both the International Labor Organization and UNESCO reveals that at least 70% of institutions that are charged with imparting skills, training young men and women have been closed, making the process go virtual. This reality directly affects the core objective of UN’s World youth skills day, it is an “an opportunity for young people, technical and vocational education and training institutions and public and private sector stakeholders to acknowledge and celebrate the importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work, and entrepreneurship.” Currently, more young people are out of work due to the pandemic – COVID 19. Statistics also show that three out of four young people that are not in employment are women. This pauses greater challenges to be addressed than one sees on the surface.
As captured by the sustainable development goals, education is essential. Since human beings are unique in their own way, it means they can all make a valued contribution to the development of society due to their unique gifts, talents, and mental strength. It does not matter if they are female or male. Challenges to be addressed include; youth unemployment, which presents a higher number of unemployed females compared to males, secondly, closely looking at lifestyles in rural areas presents the complex vice of early marriages, which is a direct result of marginalizing the girl child when it comes to skills development. In a society void of relevant skills among the youths, poverty levels are higher, violence prevails and authorities tend to grapple with poor health situations and systems. This all stifles development.
So, regardless of the circumstances, we all must persevere and continue to inspire young people to learn skills and pursue excellence without discrimination. Whereas most schools are shut, we as a society must know that homeschooling or virtual lessons can still teach young people one or two things that can help them make this world a better place.
With these changing circumstances and the global village that we live in nowadays, skills are the key to adapting and thriving because they change lives and even go to the extent of preparing young people for jobs that the world has not even thought about.
Earlier this year, before the effects of the pandemic, were directly felt in Uganda, I visited Nile Vocational institute in Buikwe district. Here students from all walks of life learn different vocational skills. The majority of the population being girls. Jackie was a finalist by then, doing the last bits of her catering course. An orphan that had been single-handedly raised by her grandmother back in the village in Iganga district. Jackie did not wait for graduation to start earning from her catering skills. In her quest to become a successful person she chose to utilize her strength even with the scarcity of resources. Her lack of money did not take away the fact that she had exceptional soft skills and good interpersonal skills that made her relationships with people from all walks of life with ease. She chose not to waste time wallowing in self-pity. During holidays, she helped several food vendors serve different customers, most especially in the Taxi Park. Her involvement did not pay her much, but developed her skills in dealing with customers and understanding how the catering business worked. She mastered her art which made her more reliable given that she was pursuing a certificate in the same field.
One time she served a pregnant lady that was on her way to Tororo, as usual, she did what she was meant to do in a professional manner. Little did she know that applying professional soft skills while she served in an environment where many did not care about them would be her foundation for greater success? This particular lady, who Jackie now calls mum returned after a while, but Jackie was in School, she wanted to meet the young girl. Even though they did not meet at that moment, the lady left her contacts with those she found. In a nutshell, the way Jackie served this then-pregnant lady wowed her, and she was convinced of getting her involved in her bakery businesses. Jackie contacted the lady and in 2019 started working in her confectionery outlet in Mukono. This came with an income that she never expected since she was still a student. What do we see here? It matters how you develop your skills, how you exercise them regardless of whether they are soft skills or professional skills. These skills can change lives and add value to anyone as long as they are harnessed. Jackie, even without graduating got a stable employment, this added impetus to her development and the growth of her small family. As a student, she has been able to take care of her grandmother and the other grandchildren with whom they share a home. So instead of her being a dependent, or being pushed into early marriage, she has developed, placing herself in a position where she is a breadwinner in a family that once lived in a vicious circle of poverty.
Under the circumstances, the world has become a global village where different countries have similar issues to work on. With the majority of the unemployed being female, I can authoritatively argue that imparting relevant skills in young girls will boost several economies. Manpower that societies ordinarily would have restricted to the domestic arena will be harnessed by the external job market. This means that families or households will have several sources of income, and therefore reducing the rate of dependency more so in developing countries. The more skilled girls that we have in our societies, the less the dependency ratio and the higher the family incomes and the higher the potential for development. This definitely comes with a certain level of independence amongst the females which will play out to stop child marriages and violence against girls in different societies.
Prince Wako Foundation is here to remind all of us of our responsibility to foster and protect the dignity of everyone, regardless of gender. Dignity has several layers, and giving one an opportunity to get a decent education, develop their skills and eventually work to earn a living without discrimination is one of the simplest ways we can protect the dignity of youths, more so the girl child. Let us all be resilient under the circumstances and work to develop skills that will develop the world. Happy World Youth Day 2020.