Youth unemployment has deep roots, combating it requires us to challenge conventional wisdom

By Bohlokoa Lephoi, Courtesy of The Writing Competition 2018

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Young people constitute a large and speedily growing fraction of the population in Lesotho. These young people live in a quickly changing space challenged with a lot of pressures. This leads them to experiencing discomforting confusion, disturbing irritations and perplexities and adjustment problems as a result of rapid social change. The most serious of the evils that afflict our country of late is youth unemployment.

Against a backdrop of widespread concern about unemployment, young people in particular are paying a heavy price for an economic crisis they did not cause, with the higher unemployment rates than the rest of the population. Basotho youth are discouraged and pessimistic. They endure the burden of marginalization and possess thoughts of worthlessness. These young people whose future looks blurry, dreams seem to fade, and their time stolen, possess less hope of financial independence.

Thousands of youth graduate from various tertiary institutions yearly, ready to enter the job market every year. Due to slow economic growth, corruption, nepotism and demand for these 14 lettered words, work experience, used mostly to delay our youths’ dreams by potential employers, 75% remain unemployed.

Our country, like many African countries, grapples with a democratic deficit leading to corruption being an endemic to the way of life in much of it. A deficiency and failure of leadership easily drive a nation into chaos, particularly where there is little quality advice in the evidence at the top level of where good governance is concerned.

Difficult and challenging situations in the life of any nation are always the right opportunities for great leaders to prove their determination. There is no nation that can be at peace when the majority of its citizens have an incomplete courage of being employed. In such tough situations, no welfare support can bolster the painful effects of joblessness.

It’s saddening how one sees a lot of youth, during election times, vote certain people who promise to make their lives better but shut their office doors afterwards. We entrust these people with our aspirations and responsibility for stability and social cohesion, however they leave us at the side of the road at risk of falling into unacceptable behaviors.

These are the same people who never ask themselves what visions young Basotho have, how they see development initiatives and how those can be integrated into the new development changes. This is why our future leaders are not in the heart of our country’s government programs.

The whole world may be facing a surge of unemployment, especially among the youth, but the case of Lesotho is more precarious. The government does not necessarily invest in youths unless they tolerate the country’s merciless landscape of often encountering white collar-malice, nepotism and outright exclusion. To say that youth unemployment is a challenge is an understatement because it really is a national crisis.

Although statistics relating to the youth in Lesotho are often scarce and outdated, statistics show that youth unemployment rate in Lesotho from 2007 and 2017, according to the data of ILO, is estimated to be 38.53%. To the naked eye, the situation seems far greater than that.

There is a need to develop policies that will address unemployment. There needs to be catalysts for youth empowerment and participation like job summits. Youth empowerment and participation is indeed a great essential force to bring transformation in this crisis we are facing.

Young people need a branded platform where they can voice their opinions powerfully, take appropriate action, and inspire a hope that we can have a catalytic impact all over the country. If that dynamic cycle can be created, there can be a powerful outcome of youth empowerment, contributing to the national prosperity, economic competition and reduced unemployment.

This can lead to a point where the country can produce a lot of young entrepreneurs, as our country currently possess youth who don’t have the patience to build a business for three years yet are patiently willing to go to work for 40 years.

I might as well not blame them though for we are the products of our society. As our language says, “thupa e otlolloa esale metsi” and we are groomed by being told to go to school, get good grades and pass to become lawyers, Doctors and teachers just like so and so in our neighborhoods, as our parents perceive those to be proper careers.

For most of our lives, we have been taught that the clandestine to a positive life is to get an outstanding grade, which is actually not true. Education goes far beyond the classroom. A lot of children fail to unleash their full potential not because they are not smart enough or do not care, but because they are dictated by a system of books.

I am not saying our current Education system is doing no good, it does teach us the basics. However, much of what we learn in school is not practical in the real world. Our education system places a lot of weight on A+ grades guided by irrelevant books on the world we live in rather than unleashing the promise that can be found in each and every one of us.

It’s pretty obvious that our current education system needs major reform, because we lose ourselves from as early as standard 1 being told that we are not good enough when we can’t meet the expectations of an A+ poster child. So many students fail to notice their worth because a simple grade tells them they have none.

We are supposed to be helped to find our passion and purpose through education, but our education system is failing us miserably. We are actually making life a linear line that things need to pass from generations to generations even when unnecessary.

Studying is always a good investment and we need to focus our energies to fix where the problem is most acute when it comes to our education system, which will help us remove barriers to job creation. Youth unemployment has deep roots. Combating it requires us to challenge conventional wisdom by reforming schools and universities.

Like Jane Addams says, “Of all aspects of social misery, nothing is so heart breaking as unemployment.” We as trustees of prosperity need to fight to eradicate it.

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