The far-reaching effects of unemployment among the youth.

By Tabitha Marion

At 29, Onyi walks the street of Nyalenda, searching any menial jobs to earn a living. With the current times, he braces for the best while expecting the worst, with the rocketed prices of goods, high tax rates and scarce employment opportunities. He has toyed with the idea of starting his own business to fend for himself but he lacks the funds to sustain it.

“I am a graduate with a degree in bachelor of commerce. I have tarmacked in search of a job to no avail. Right now, I do odd jobs like unblocking clogged sewers or construction jobs on some sites after four years of paying fees for a course that has no use for me right now. It is hard work. What I earn from it cannot sustain my needs, but what can I do? It is better than going about robbing women and men at their place of work, or from being idle like some of my peers.  Some youths despair and steal, especially if they have parents who are of age or a family, and they depend entirely on you, leading to a life of crime. It is painful knowing that people prefer employing those they know, unlike having new faces on board. Having legitimate qualifications doesn’t guarantee you any opportunity nowadays.”

At a recent gathering in Tom Mboya Hall, Nyalenda B, residents voiced their concerns about prevalent security issues in the area. A woman expressed her distress over the vulnerability of businesses to nighttime robberies and individuals being accosted on their way home, facing the risk of having all their possessions taken by desperate youths This is a tell-tale sign of the state of youths in the area, and if the issue is not addressed, then the residents face the looming threat of worse incidents occurring as long as the youth remain trapped in the same circumstances.

State of the fear

On January 31, 2024, I witnessed worry and caution on the faces of the people in a market in Kisumu town.   Chaos broke out in town due to demonstrations by some public vehicle operators, causing pandemonium. The market gates were swiftly closed with no one allowed in or out. Most businesses had ceased operations, and the atmosphere was tense and unproductive. Attempting to leave the market, I was advised against it, the vendors, especially with the mamas who confided in me that the youths rob people during such crises. In the midst of the chaos, both businesses and the general public faced the imminent risk of being robbed of their possessions, with a stark reality that no immediate assistance or protection was available.

This is the same fear subjected upon residents of Nyalenda B, come to think of it. People work in fear of losing the little they have earned. The people who undertake those outrageous acts live under fear of being caught, parents fear for their children who might end up in the same menace, and we fear for the future that seems to blink when our youths who should be building the nation are busy tearing down the walls of development freedom and peace among people.

What to do

The current situation demands more than superficial solutions such as street lights for security or empty promises of job creation. Handouts from politicians may momentarily satisfy, but they don’t provide a sustainable path forward. It’s time for change where the youths are not just recipients but active participants in their future. Inviting the youths to the table, alongside leadership and the community, is a crucial step. It offers them a firsthand glimpse of what it means to “be at the table” where decisions are made. To truly make a difference, the youths need to not only hear the call but also heed it and walk the call.

Also, the leadership from the county level can empower the youths through starting up projects like sports clubs, youth self-help groups and many more others. The youths can be engaged in public participation forums and decision-making processes like elections to take part in the leadership. County-related projects like construction can be a tool to engage the youths in work for pay to keep them from idling.

There is hope for a tree that has been cut. It is as well that there is hope for our youths who are being consumed with the burning embers of unemployment.

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