ZAMBIAN youths should take advantage of various youth empowerment programmes offered by the Government and some companies from the private sector to improve their economic status.
The youth, who are the most affected by unemployment, should not wait for the Government and other stakeholders to create formal employment for them but must look beyond this with a view to engaging in self-employment ventures.
Of course the Government is already doing something for Zambia’s growing population of the unemployed youth. This is seen in various activities of the developmental nature where young people are being absorbed.
Some of these are found in the area of infrastructure development such as the construction of roads, schools and health centres country-wide.
Already, tens of thousands of young Zambians have been engaged in these ventures and are earning a living for themselves and their families.
Specifically on youth empowerment, it is encouraging to hear Youth and Sports Minister Chishimba Kambwili disclose that the Government has so far created 1,000 jobs country-wide from the K23 million Youth Development Fund disbursed to 700 youth groups and associations since 2011.
But while commending such an achievement, we feel that the Government, and even private companies, cannot absorb all the employable but unemployed youths, whose number is growing by the day.
Only a few months ago, Finance Minister Alexander Chikwanda gave the nation a breakdown of population distribution which clearly showed that Zambians under 30 years old and below represented 70 per cent of the country’s entire population.
Specifically referring to the situation of unemployment, the minister saw this as a time bomb, advising that only massive employment creation could forestall social instability in the country.
Following the sale of major companies to investors, the private sector had by 2009 become Zambia’s largest employer of workers in the formal sector, raking in more than 60 per cent of the total number of workers in formal employment.
Considering the fact that even with such efforts by both the Government and private firms people in formal employment are still below one million, there is more to be done, especially that the country has about five to six million people in the employable age category.
However, it is not all these people who can be absorbed in formal employment. Not even half of these Zambians can enter formal employment.
This then calls for self-employment initiatives. Already the Government has created conditions for this with the Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education introducing vocational skills training in the new curriculum.
The new curriculum is, therefore, not just about teaching children vernacular languages in the early years of learning, but is a complete overhaul of the educational system which will see youths who cannot make it to universities be somehow empowered with various skills that could enable them engage in self-employment activities.
We further urge the Zambian youth to heed the call by First Quantum Minerals (FQM) country manager Kingsley Chinkuli to take advantage of various programmes his company has rolled out in the education and skills development sector.
We are informed that FQM, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, Science, Vocational Training and Early Education, runs a three-year apprenticeship programme to boost the skills levels among artisans and other technicians.
This is in addition to other programmes covering early childhood education through primary, secondary and tertiary education, as well as adult literacy.
A situation where youths who drop out of school end up on the streets is simply unacceptable and should not be allowed to continue.
This is because these youngsters never lead a normal life on the streets as they end up with such bad habits as drunkenness, smoking (including abuse of drugs), prostitution and other forms of anti-social bevaviour.
We urge parents and guardians looking after the youth who currently don’t have anything to do to persuade them to take up initiatives the Government and FQM have come up with so that they too can adjust to a more normal life.
With the new curriculum in particular, Zambian youths that are no longer working have a chance to get skills training in plumbing, bricklaying, tinsmith, as well as in the lucrative sector of agriculture, for instance.
Once trained, the youth will obviously integrate more easily into society and have sources of earning legitimate income of their own and, in the process, support themselves and their families. OPINION