It is imperative that empowerment and development in all spheres of life must be pursued by governments at all levels to realise the potentials of the youth.
For statistical purposes, the United Nations (UN) defines Youth as those persons between ages 15 and 24 years.
Currently, there are 1.2 billion young people known as youth globally. They will be accounting for 16 per cent of the global population by 2030, the target date for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that make up the 2030 Agenda.
Apparently, the number of youth is projected to have grown by 7 per cent to nearly 1.3 billion.
The UN has long recognised that the imagination, ideals and energy of young people are vital for the continuing development of the societies in which they live.
It also recognises the young people as rights- holders and has over the years promoted and facilitated transparency, international organisations and others towards young people.
This had led to the identification of fifteen fields of action by the International Community which include, education, employment, hunger and poverty, health, environment, substance abuse, juvenile justice, leisure- time activities, girls and young women and the full effective participation of youth in the life of society in decision making.
Youths globally are increasingly demanding more progressive opportunities and solutions in their societies. The need to address various challenges faced by young people such access to education; health and employment have any more pressing than ever.
Another recognition of young people’s wellbeing, participation and empowerment of key drivers of sustainable development and peace around the world by the UN was the adoption of the 2030 Agenda involving Member States and civil society, including youth organisations in the development of goals and targets.
The responsibility for finding solutions to the challenges affecting young people lies largely with governments, it must seek to create an environment in which youth from different socio- economic backgrounds enjoy access to youth rights, quality education, employment opportunities, health services and youth work, among others.
Today, the world is home to the largest population of young people in history- 1.2 billion people. Meanwhile, close to 90 per cent of the world’s youth live in developing countries where they make up a high proportion of the population.
According to United Nations Educational Scientific Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), young people are also facing major challenges in both the developed and developing world. While many developed countries have seen prospects for younger generations increase, many developing countries struggle to create enough employment to absorb their demographic youth bulge.
Across the world, today’s youth are three times more likely to be unemployed than other adults with the global youth employment rate standing at 13 per cent.
In Pakistan, young people comprise 36. 9 percent of their population, but their share as entrepreneurs is very less. High illiteracy, low education, lack of skills training and scarce facilities and resources are some of specific challenges young people encounter there.
India has its largest ever adolescent and youth population in the world. Around 66 per cent of the total population (more than 808 billion) is below the age of 35. According to United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) projections, India will continue to have one of the youngest population in the world till 2030. However, unemployment is a major social issue in India.
According to reports, Africa’s population as a whole is very young, with 60 percent of the entire continent aged below 25, making it the youngest continent in the world, relation to its population makeup.
Subsequently, African youths are facing many challenges, including poverty, inadequate education, unemployment, and lack of opportunity. African youth are also at the risk of becoming victims of crime, HIV/ AIDS and other diseases.
One big challenge is that African youth are often not given the opportunity to learn and grow. This is often due to poverty or poor education. Most often, families do not have the money to send their children to school, thereby not giving the African youth the opportunity to learn component life skills.
Another challenge was that the African youth were often not given a voice. They are often too afraid to speak out because they do not have any power or representation. This means they are not able to change their situation or advocate for themselves.
From statistics, Nigeria has the largest population of youth in the world, with the median age of 18.1 years. About 70 percent of the population are under 30 and 42 percent are under the age 15.
As of August 2022, youths account for 70 per cent of the 217 million of Nigeria’s population which indicates 151million youths.
The size and youthfulness of the population can offer great potential to expand Nigeria’s capacity as the regional economic hub of Africa.
However, in Nigeria, youth face several challenges including unemployment, limited technical and vocational skills, limited inclusion in social and political space and lack of financing for ventures and businesses.
According to an African Research Review by Beatrice Ifeoma Ajufo, unemployment has become a major problem affecting the lives of Nigerian youth, causing increasing militancy, violent crimes, kidnapping, restiveness and socially delinquent behaviour.
“Youth unemployment is devastating to both the individual and the society as a whole both psychologically and economically”, she said.
A Nigerian Economist and President of the African Development Bank, Akinwumi Adesina stated that the youth are not the problem of Nigeria; the youth are the assets of Nigeria.
He also stated that Nigeria must embark on bolder measures to grow its youth into a well trained globally competitive workforce, noting that, “Nigerian government must invest and empower young people by offering innovative policies, this will guarantee their global competitiveness”.
The youth must be empowered to play a vital role in their own development as well as
in that of their communities, helping them to learn vital life-skills, develop knowledge on human rights and citizenship and to promote positive civic action is key.
To participate effectively, young people must be given the proper tools, such as information, education about and access to their civil rights.
Young people are a major human resource for development and key agents for social change, economic growth and technological innovation.
Participation in decision-making is a key priority area of the UN agenda on youth. In 1995, on the tenth anniversary of International Youth Year, the United Nations strengthened its commitment to young people by adopting the World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY), an international strategy to more effectively address their problems and increase opportunities for participation in society.
The international community has reaffirmed its commitment to youth participation through UN General Assembly resolution 58/133, which reiterates the “importance of the full and effective participation of youth and youth organisations at the local, national, regional and international levels in promoting and implementing the World Programme of Action and in evaluating the progress achieved and the obstacles encountered in its implementation”. Subsequent resolutions have also dealt with policies and programmes involving youth as well as promoting youth participation in social and economic development.
This boils down to youth empowerment and helping the youth to succeed in all areas of their lives. It is the responsibility of all governments to assist the youth in any form.
Governments should involve youth by recognising their needs. Allowing them to participate in implementing youth programmes will enhance the empowerment and development process. This responsibility does not only fall on the government but on all of us.
By: Ibinabo Ogolo
‘Skills Acquisition, Key To Youth Empowerment’
The problem of youth empowerment and employment is a world wide phenomenon,although it is very topical amongst countries of the developing world. Confronted by the scourge,the United Nations recognised the need for a frontal tackling of the menace by drawing world attention to it.
The world, recently celebrated World Youth Skills Day. A day set aside to celebrate the strategic importance of equpping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.
As the world undergoes rapid technological economic and societal transformations, young people will need the right skills to successfully navigate these challenges and achieve their full potentials.
Celebrations were held all over the world with special programmes and events organised by the United Nations.
On the occasion of the 2023 World Youth Skills Day, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, emphasised the need for quality education and described the acquisition of skills as a neccessity for the next generation.
According to him, “Equipping young people with quality education, training and skills are essential. This World Youth Skills Day reminds us all that teachers stand at the forefront of this global effort “.
With the 2023 theme: “Skilling teachers, trainers and youth for a transformative future” ,this highlights the essential role that teachers, trainers and other educators play in providing skills for youth to transit to the labour market and to actively engage in their communities and societies.
Here in Rivers State, youth unemployment remains a major issue. Despite efforts by the Rivers State Government to address the problem through employment opportunities, a lot of youths remain unemployable due to lack of skills.
To address the obvious lack of skills among young people, schools and institutions are now adopting strategies to ensure that even graduates are empowered with one skill or the other. It was for this reason that the Rivers State University, Nkpolu Oroworukwo, Port Harcourt introduced a new Faculty of Entrepreneurial Studies aimed at empowering students and graduands with skills.
Similarly, the Ignatius Ajuru University of Education in Port Harcourt also set out to bolster entrepreneurship education to prepare students to launch themselves out on their own as industry – ready graduates.
Even at the post primary level of education, attempts are on to ensure that students are equipped with skills to enable them become independent.This is something that needs to be encouraged generally.
In an interview with The Tide ,Director of Carina International School, Port Harcourt, Pastor Jeff Anika, thanked the United Nations for highlighting a day like this for youths on skills acquisition.
Anika stated that his school encourages and emphasises on skills training for students, especially in the secondary section.
According to him,”we are into skills training especially at the secondary section, we train the children in Computer skills, Sewing/Fashion Design, Cookery, Fine Arts,among others. The trainings are done in the school by invited resource persons or outside the school in collaboration with the trainers.
We are doing this to help our students gain training that will help them later in life.
You can see,the way the society is going, skill is vital for these young ones to survive. Looking for white collar job is tough. Getting a skill in addition to their degree certificate gives them an edge above others”, he said.
In a seperate interview, a fourth year Marine Engineering student of Rivers State University (RSU) Miss Scotia Princewill,said skills training and acquisition is very important for young people in order to contribute their quota in society and empower themselves.
She explained that some parents before now encouraged their children to acquire skills during holidays but with the celebration of a skills day by the United Nationd there should be more enlightenment for parents,guardians, government and corporate bodies to help train the youth.
Miss Princewill also said that, she was in the process of acquiring a skills in computer programming to be precise, web development,adding that RSU now offers a compulsory 300 level entrepreneurship course for every student before graduation.
”This is a good thing happening in our University. We have a big centre for entrepreneurship for students to engage in a skill at 300 level before graduation. I opted for electrical fittings though we were taught the theoretical aspect”,she said.
World Youth Skills Day celebrated every year on July 15 was established by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA)in 2014 to acknowledge the crucial significance of equipping young individuals with necessary skill sets for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.
Given the advancements in technology and ever – evolving nature of the job market, it has become increasingly important to empower young people with adaptable and versatile skill sets. World Youth Skills Day 2023 is an opportunity to emphasise the role of skills development in enabling the youth to thrive in the economy.
Some of the programmes for this year’s day by the UN include, Youth Lead Innovation Sportlight Virtual programme that convened a dialogue on the importance of multi shareholders collaboration to enable future- proof skills for youth through trainers’ and teachers’ empowerment.
Empowering youth for a Sustainable Future in Bonn,Germany, hybrid event co – organised by UNESCO – UNEVOC and World Skills International which showcased the positive impact of youth skills development on societies and economies.
Also, a high level panel at New York, UN headquarters, ECOSOC Chamber which was organised by the Permanent Missions of Portugal and Sri Lanka to the United Nations in collaboration with UNESCO, ILO,and the office of the Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth which brought together member States, young experts, social partners, teachers, educators and various stakeholders on the way forward for youths for a transformative future.
By: Ibinabo Ogolo
How Brain Inflammation May Aid Autism
Autism, a disease of serious developmental disorder that impairs the ability of a person to communicate and interact, may be caused by inflammation of the brains of young people, according to research published in Science Translational Medicine recently.
Prior to the origins of many neurodevelopment disorders, which remain uncertain, the new study of post-modern brain tissue from children who died between the ages of one and five has shown how inflammation affects the brain.
For the first time, researchers from the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM) discovered that inflammation alters the development of vulnerable brain cells and this could have mechanistic links to neurodevelopmental disorders and could lead to treatments for many different childhood – on set neurodevelopmental disorders.
The UMSOM’s Institute for Genome Sciences (IGS), Department of Pharmacology and the University of Maryland Medicine Institute of Neuroscience Discovery (UM – MIND) conducted the research. The study is part of a collection of nearly 30 papers describing the development and diversity of cell types in the human brain.
Though previous research had shown that babies born with abnormalities of the cerebellum frequently go on to experience neurodevelopmental disorders, the new study specifically looked at the cerebellum because it is one of the first brain regions to begin developing and one of the last to reach its maturity, but remained understudied.
The lead author of the research team, IGS Scientist and Associate Professor in the Department of Psychiatry at UMSOM, Seth Ament, Ph.D, stated that, “with the fairly new technology of single nucleus RNA sequencing, we could look at the cell level and see changes in the brain”. Also, the Co – Leader of the research team, the James and Carolyn Frenkil Dean’s Professor and Chair in Pharmacology and Director of UM – MIND, Margaret McCarthy, Ph.D,added, “This has never been done before in this age group and in the context of inflammation. The gene expression in the cerebella of children and inflammation were remarkably consistent”.
From the report, the researchers examined donated post mortem brain tissues of 17 children who died when they were one to five years old, eight from conditions that involved inflammation and nine from accidents.
None of the donors had been diagnosed with a neurological disorder prior to death. The two groups were similar in age, gender, race/ethnicity and time since death. These unique brain tissue specimens had been collected over many years by UMSOM researchers at the University of Maryland Brain and Tissue Bank.
According to the study, two specific, yet rare types of cerebellar neurons were most vulnerable to brain inflammation – the Golgi and Purkinje neutrons. At the single cell level, these two types of neurons showed premature disruption of their maturation.
Dr Ament said, “although rare, Purkinje and Golgi neutrons have critical functions. During development, Purkinje neurons form synapses connecting the cerebellum to other brain regions involved in cognition or emotional control, while Golgi neurons coordinate communication between cells within the cerebellum. Disruption of either of these developmental processes could explain how inflammation contributes to conditions like autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia”.
Also, the UMSOM Dean, who is also Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, Dr. Mark Gladwin said, “this study is one of the first to show that gene expression challenges during inflammation which may set the stage for later cellular dysfunction,such as reducing synaptic connectivity or altering energy metalbolism.
“It is critical to understand these mechanisms and changes at the cellular level during brain development in the hope that someday we can develop treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders “, stated a distinguished professor at UMSOM, Akiko Bowers.
However, more studies indicate that the rate of autism is rising. A growing area of research focuses on interaction of genetic and environmental factors. It is likely that a woman’s exposure to harmful contaminants during pregnancy may trigger a genetic mutation leading to autism in her child. No link has been found between autism and vaccines, including those containing thimerosal, a mercury based compound.
Other environmental factors that may be associated with autism include advanced parental age as at time of conception, pre natal exposure to air pollution or certain pesticides, maternal obesity, diabetes or immune system disorders, extreme prematurity or very low birth weight and any birth difficulty leading to periods of oxygen deprivation to the baby’s brain.
People with autism have trouble with communication . They have trouble understanding what other people think and feel. This makes it hard for them to express things, either with words or through gestures, facial expressions and touch.
People with autism may have problems with learning. Their skills might develop unevenly. They could have trouble communicating but be unusually good at art, music, mathematics or things that involve memory. Because of this, they might do especially well on tests of analysis or problem solving.
More children are diagnosed with autism now than ever. But the latest numbers could be higher because of changes in how its diagnosed, not because more children have the disorder.
According to Key Autism Statistics, as of 2023, in the US, around 1 in 36 children has been diagnosed with autism. Around 75 million people have autism spectrum disorder, that is 1 percent of the world’s population. 1 in 100 children are diagnosed with autism as of 2021. Autism prevalence has increased 178 percent since 2020. The country with the highest rate of diagnosed autism in the world is Qatar and the country with the lowest rate is France . Also, around 4 times as many boys have autism as girls.
By: Ibinabo Ogolo
Adolescents’ Health:Rivers Hosts National Campaign, Next Month
Over the years, Rivers State has been in the forefront among states in Nigeria, in promoting adolescent health. It is no wonder that the State has now been chosen by the Paediatric Association of Nigeria to host its first ever Adolescents and Young People’s Health campaign in Nigeria.
The campaign which has been tentatively fixed for next month in Port Harcourt is expected to attract adolescents, young people and parents to chart a way forward for the young, vulnerable and impressive minds.
Disclosing this in an exclusive interview with The Tide on the sidelines of the Third Quarter meeting of the Adolescents and Young People Technical Working Group of Rivers State Ministryof Health, the Chairperson of the group, Professor Ndieuto Akani stated that the key role and emphasis which Rivers State has made over the years on adolescents and young people was key in selecting the venue.
Prof Akani who is also the Head, Adolescent Section of the Paediatric Association of Nigeria said, “Rivers State was chosen by the association because the state has been viewed as the point where adolescent health has been promoted for years in Nigeria.
She also stated that the adolescent campaign is an off-shoot of the 1.8 billion young people for change campaign which took place round the globe from October 11 — 12 , 2023, noting that adolescents from different countries had spoken out their minds on what they want concerning their health and well-being.
“Here, in Nigeria, the Paediatric Association of Nigeria will hold its adolescents and young people’s campaign in Rivers State to help achieve policies, investments and actions on adolescents, health and well-being in Nigeria.
Prof. Akani however, called on government, partners and stakeholders to identify with the upcoming programme, upcoming adding that adolescents, paediatricians and health officers would attend the programme from other states in Nigeria.
She also urged the Rivers State Technical Working Group on Adolescents and Young People to collaborate with the Paediatric Association of Nigeria to flag off the 1.8 billion campaign on adolescents in the State.
Meanwhile, at the one-day third quarter and Young People Technical Working Group (AYPTWG) meeting held at Emerald Hotel in Port Harcourt, the Chairperson of the group, Professor Ndieuto Akani commended volunteers working in the three committees identified as priority areas as it concerns adolescent health in the State.
“Last year, we had a workshop with the Federal Ministry of Health in attendance. We identified three top problems confronting adolescents in Rivers State. These are drug abuse/ alcoholism, teenage pregnancy / unsafe abortion and violence and cultism. We went ahead to develop possible ways to solve these problems. Today, we now have volunteers to work in these three committees, to help achieve workable results.
Also, last year, we identified the need to involve parents and guardians in solving problems confronting adolescents. Parents have to know that they are part of these problems. They are the ones suffering it and we will achieve success faster if the parents are involved”, Akani, noted.”
According to her, “Since last year, the group has been soliciting for sponsorship for a parental conference in Rivers State. We had talked with the Ministry of Women Affairs, we also want to involve the Ministry of Youth Development and Ministry of Information and Communications. We are ready for the parental conference once we get sponsorship”.
In her remarks at the meeting, the Desk Officer, Adolescents and Young People Technical Working Group, Rivers State Ministry of Health, Mrs Mbreba Wokoma expressed satisfaction with the inputs of professional members that have volunteered to help tackle the three thematic areas affecting adolescents in the State.
She called on stakeholders, Non-Govermental Organisations (NGOs) and partners especially working within the space to help see how these problems affecting adolescents in the State can be reduced to the barest minimum.
According to her, “we are advocating a parental conference as part of the avenues to best minimise issues faced by adolescents and young people in the State.
Also, we are ready to work with the Paediatric Association of Nigeria for the adolescents campaign next month”.
A communique is expected to be released on the outcome of the one – day meeting.
Meanwhile, it is important to note that as of today, the world has more young people than at any time in history. Yet , most of today’s 1.8 billion adolescents and youths (ages 10 – 24 ) fall short of potential current policy and investment approaches which fail to meet their needs.
At the first ever Global Forum for Adolescents ( the world’s largest gathering for adolescent well-being) which took place on 11-12 October, 2023 online, is a bold global movement asking young people what they want for their health and wellbeing and building demand for decision makers to transform their answers into policies for world leaders to adopt and implement.
By: Ibinabo Ogolo
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