BY BRIAN CHITEMBA
JUNE is an important month on the calendar for the youth. It is the month where brave youths in apartheid South Africa, on June 16, 1976, protested against the imposition of Afrikaans as medium of instruction in schools.
The bloody protests were a reaction to social injustices of rulers who oppressed the black child. Unfortunately, hundreds of protesting youths were shot dead including Hector Pieterson, as they sought justice and enhanced democracy.
The Day of the African Child is not just a national holiday in South Africa; it is a day to honour those who died seeking proper education. What the Soweto youths died for still lingers in some parts of Africa. There are challenges facing the youth such as unemployment, unaffordable education, child marriages and migration.
Zimbabwe is no exception. The problems facing African youths are homogenous — be it in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Mozambique, Ethiopia or Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe has a youthful population with over 67% of the 14 million people below the age of 35 who are regarded as the future. There are legal provisions such as the Constitution, the youth policy and the Africa Youth Charter, of which Zimbabwe is a signatory, which provides for the state to ensure youths’ access to education, representation in social, economic and political spheres.
The state is also expected to create jobs. But the situation has been dire due to a two-decade economic meltdown. By his own admission, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, posted on his official Facebook page this week that, “of course, we still have much more work to do. Too many Zimbabweans are still hungry. Too many Zimbabweans are still unemployed. And too many of our young Zimbabweans are still without the tools needed to thrive in a global digital economy”.
This is a grim picture for the youth where promises by the government for better opportunities have remained, to use a cliché, a pipedream. One wonders what is happening to the ZW$9,8 billion budget surplus in 2021 at a time when the World Bank has acknowledged the high levels of poverty stalking the young population in Zimbabwe.
The high literacy levels as a result of increased schools and universities in post-independent Zimbabwe is a positive that cannot go unmentioned. Every year, thousands of young graduates are capped from colleges and universities, but the only sad thing which needs to be addressed is lack of opportunities to start businesses and decent jobs. Some resort to cross-border trading and vending to feed families.
Since the 1976 Soweto youth uprising, the conditions for the youth should have improved by now. But the problem is that post-colonial Africa has created an elite ruling class and a poor majority — creating significant social stratifications even after independence.