CATCHING THEM YOUNG FOR NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
By Peter Dada
Some years back, I was opportune to travel to Tianjin Province in China for a programme that lasted one month. It was also attended by some middle and senior level officers from the Public Service from Tanzania, Ethiopia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Ghana and Uganda. The programme was about how to manage business cluster zones with Tianjin Province as a case study. There were some lessons that I learnt from the programme. One was that the organisers were time conscious for every activity, based on adequate planning before we arrived in Tianjin. Secondly, all the operators of the industries and other places we visited had been informed that some guests from Africa were coming on a tour of their factories to see and learn about their operations and lessons they could take back home. The third lesson which I considered the most unique selling point and very central to this article was the active involvement of Chinese youths who were less than 30 years old in the various operations of the places we visited. It has continued to remain ever green in my memory since 2012 when the tour took place. Some of the youth were at the Beijing Airport to receive us as soon as the various flights we boarded landed there. Both the guests and our hosts all travelled to Tianjin by road under a seamless arrangement that lasted five hours. Some of them acted as our facilitators and they handled topics assigned to them with dexterity. During our intra-city flights from Tianjin to other places in the course of the programme, young boys of not more than 25 years of age were the pilots that flew the aircraft we boarded. At a point, I almost excused myself from boarding a plane when I realized that a small boy would be flying it. However, I got the required assurances from the organisers of the programme and the flying public there that every intending passenger including myself were in safe hands. And the flights, I was convinced that the Pilot-boys were super humans as far as their duty posts were concerned.
One of them explained to me through an interpreter that the government of China has the policy of identifying areas of comparative advantage in every Chinese citizen early in their ages. The government encourages the individual to develop his or her innate tendencies or inbuilt potentials along such bias and most especially in his or her mother language for easy assimilation of his or her future job schedule. I concluded that theirs was not a case of “ a Jack of all trades and master of none.’’ Rather, specialisation starts from a tender age and you grow with it and, it thus becomes a part of you. The Chinese government has enacted the “Catch-them-young policy’’ and thus started to integrate the country’s youths in national development. No wonder that today, China remains a country with a very strong economic base in all human endeavours.
Can we say that the Nigerian government has a similar programme of integration of her youths toward contributing their quota to national development? Today, septuagenarians are still the ones calling the shots in most public and private sectors. Unfortunately, they will tell the few youths that managed to be around that this was how we had been doing it for the past three or four decades. However, an evaluation of their performances had shown that it was motion without movement.
Nigerian youths have continued to be victims of bad governance, policy summersaults, lack of adequate planning, or no planning at all. For most of them that had the opportunities of gaining admissions to tertiary institutions within the country, they only knew when they were admitted but only God knows when they would finally complete their academic programmes.
If such laudable dreams are not ruptured by frequently embarked upon strikes by their lecturers for either plausible or flimsy requests from government, it would be terminated by the ones engineered by the students themselves either against the system or the government.
Since a lazy man’s brain is the devil’s workshop, some of the students often engage in other social vices. Here, the hydra- headed monster called cultism that
bestrode the academic world like a colossus, becomes the order of the day for some of them. The rippling effects of this include killing of innocent students or workers and wanton destruction of school properties, cars, vehicles and buildings on campuses; due to superiority battle between cult confraternities.
Decades past, cultism had restricted its bestiality to the Ivory towers but today, it has cascaded to both the primary and secondary school levels. One wonders what the various stakeholders in the sector were doing that this social vice has to eat deep into the fabric of the education sector and by extension the nation as a whole.
Also worrisome as cultism, is the issue of examination malpractices among students during internal and external examinations. They do not believe in burning the midnight candle and reading profusely to be able to pass their examinations in flying colours and to the admirations of their parents or guardians. In some cases, some of these students were usually supported by their parents in this criminal activity under the pretext that “with money, everything is possible and achievable”. To them, meritocracy and the courage needed by students to merit the certificates issued to them by the schools and examination bodies do not matter. Rather, the celebration of absurdity is the order of the day.
Just as pathetic as the scenario painted above is the trending network of kidnapping, banditry and hostage taking of innocent citizens by unemployed youths who want to live big. The nation’s roads are no longer safe for travelling because of the likelihood of being attacked, kidnapped and killed by suspected Boko Haram insurgents through guns or the use of explosive devices. If one is lucky not to be killed, the abductors will ask the families of their abductees to pay huge monetary ransom before they release them.
In contemporary times, youths who disguise as herdsmen are perpetuating these heinous crimes across the length and breadth of Nigeria. All these `black’ actions and acts of lawlessness by the youths are signs of protest against the system whom they feel did not have anything possible to offer them.
The manifestation of these vicious cycles of evil is also a clarion call to both the Federal and State Governments to wake up from slumbers and be proactive in attending to the yearnings of the teeming youths of the country. When they do not have positive things to engage in, these youths dissipate their energies on negative things. Habits formed in the hearts impressionable youths if good will be yield positive values for the country and if negative, will bring about terrible consequences for their fatherland.
Perhaps, the government should review the nation’s educational curriculum and integrate in it courses of studies that will identify areas of best comparative advantage which the youths can pursue from when they are of tender ages up to the university level. Government should also encourage the do-it-yourself (DIY) programmes among youths by introducing them to vocations they can begin to engage in from their primary schools. Such could be latched-upon while pupils and students are on long vacations from schools. Pupils learn faster when they are taught in their mother tongue for the first few years since they will be able to relate what the teacher had taught them in schools to their environments. In phases, their teachers can begin to introduce them to other languages for consolidation and universal understanding of concepts and principles of life.
Also, Nigeria is richly blessed with land for agriculture and it is an area that our youths can launch themselves into and used it to boosts the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). They can go into fish farming, animal husbandry, cassava and maize plantations, palm oil production, yams and rice planting, to mention just a few. Some of these areas will bring a quick them quick turn-over in investments. The government must also be reciprocal by providing for them interest-free loans, equipment and development of the rural areas where there are large expanse of fertile land for agriculture.
The youth with these incentives and others will stop venturing into Cyber Crimes, rape, ritual activities and other get-rich-quick syndromes that have continued to give bad image to the nation before the international community.
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