It is a known fact that the future of any nation lies on its youths. No wonder successive governments all over the world place emphasis on the training and empowerment of its youth, as the principle means of securing the future of the youth and the nation.
Here in Rivers State the story is not different as successive governments in the state have had one form of youth empowerment programme or the other aimed at empowering the youth.
The Rivers State Governor Rt. Honourable Chibuike Amaechi, through the Ministry of Youth is to be commended for putting in place the various youth empowerment programmes aimed at empowering the youth and reducing unemployment in the state.
Recently, the state government through the Ministry of Youth distributed application forms to unemployed youths who wish to be trained in any form of vocation of their choice. At various points of distribution, we observed a long queue of youths struggling to have these form from the ministry officials. Many observers are worried that these method employed by the state government in curbing unemployment is ineffective as many who collected the forms never turned up for the training but were rather interested in collecting the unspecified amount paid by the state government for them to start their businesses at the end of the programme. It is worrisome to observe that many have failed to utilise this laudable gesture by the state government, to such ones, this programme has become the means they partake of the proverbial national cake. No wonder, every year millions of Naira is sunk into this programme but millions of youths still roam the street without work.
The Rivers State Ministry of Youths should recognize that to be successful in empowering the youths of the state, there is need for innovation and creativity. Therefore, a departure from the old methods which have not been successful.
For example, improving facilities at the state technical colleges could go a long way in empowering the youths of the state.
Technical colleges were established in different parts of the state to train students on skills like welding and fabrication, electrical and electronic works, mechanical works, painting, arts, hair dressing and dress making. The aim was to train youths who are gifted in various skill who after graduation will be well equipped to practice in their various areas of training.
Unfortunately these technical colleges are poorly equipped as most technical colleges lack functional laboratories well equipped classrooms, technical tools necessary for the training of students. The effect of this is that many graduants of these colleges are poorly trained and are incapable of practicing in their area of training.
Observers are of the view that government should look critically into these areas. They should equip government technical colleges, encourage enrolment into these colleges, and give grants to graduants to enable them start their own trade after graduation.
Youths that have had adequate training in technical colleges will unlikely use grants given by the Rivers State government for any other purpose. Imagine the thousands of students graduated from these colleges each year, if there are well equipped and assisted to establish their own businesses will have a multiplier effect graduants can train other thus, increasing the number of skilled youths in the state and also curbing the problem of unemployment in Rivers State.
Another area that the youths can be empowered is through the School to Land Programme. The School to Land Programme was a laudable programme in the early 1980’s. Through the programme youths of the state were given training in fish farming, poultry farming and other farming skills. This no doubt helped in reducing unemployment rate among school leavers.
Today nothing is heard about the School-to-Land programme. The Rivers State government is hereby adviced to resocilitate the proramme. Many unemployed youths can be gainfully employed through this programme, especially now that there is limited employment opportunity in many corporate organisation today. By building school to land facilities in all local government headquarters in Rivers State, equipping the centres and encouraging young school leavers to take up farming as their occupation.
Agriculture is the main stay of many economies of the world. Countries like Malasyia, Indonesia, Philippines have turn their economy around through a well developed agricultural sector. T he benefit of a well developed agricultural sector are numerous. It provides food, shelter, and most importantly employment to its citizens.
Recently, the Rivers State through registered micro finance banks granted soft loans to youths in the state who are willing to go into entrepreneurship to enable them raise the needed capital necessary to start a business of their own.
The Governor of Rivers State, His Excellency Rt. Honourable Chibuike Amaechi is highly commended for setting this laudable programme. Therefore, youths of Rivers State are encouraged to utilise this opportunity and get involved in any productive venture of their choice.
Youths in rural areas should not be left out. They should be enlightenment programme in the rural areas to enable youths in rural areas benefit from the programme.
Above all, the Ministry of Youths in the state should put in place a programme of action geared toward youths re-orientation. Or youth monitoring. This is a situation whereby experience persons advice and help inexperience youth over a period of time. Government has a role to play in this regard. It should lay more emphasis on mentoring the youths in the state to enable them acquire new skills and be gainfully employed. Especially those who had been exposed to militancy require at this time is mentoring to enable them gain new knowledge on positive thinking as well as learn new and profitable vocation so as to fit into the world of work and entrepreneurship. By doing this they will find themselves in the position of authority especially within the petroleum industry and other agro-allied businesses in the state.
The advantages of mentoring are improving self esteem, exposure to new resources, increasing new partners and jobs as well as keep youths off street, access to new ideas and providing advocacy. Therefore, will enable effective transfer of knowledge and life skills for future generations.
Youth mentoring is one of the most important recipes that could make the youth acquire a sense of moral rectitude.
Charles wrote from University of Port Harcourt.