Editor's Comment

Give youths some authority

Zambia's President Hakainde Hichilema

THE clarion call by 17-year-old Yande Banda for Government to involve the youth in formulation of policies and enactment of laws that affect them deserves attention. Yande asked President Hakainde Hichilema at the World Children’s Day in Botswana over the weekend to appoint a youth advisor who will speak for the actual needs of the young generation. This was during a panel discussion at the World Children’s Day celebrations on Saturday, also attended by the presidents of Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe. During the occasion where Yande asked Mr Hichilema to appoint a special advisor on children matters, the discussion also had young activists and child participants from the four countries given chance to address the high-level gathering of four heads of state and government officials. The theme for this year’s World Children’s Day is ‘A better future for every child’. It is often said that the youth are the future. The youths agreed, but they contend that now is the time for them to be in leadership. Yande’s request was probably the least expected, but times are changing, so are dynamics involving the upbringing of children. Gone are the days when play parks, computer games and toys were the sole means of recreation and activities for children. Modern children know where they belong and are demanding not only bigger spaces in homes but also places at various tables where national and international decisions are made. They have become activists in governance issues of not only homes but also in communities, countries and the globe. Their voices are getting louder and it is only prudent that they are not only be heard, but also listened to and, where appropriate, heeded. Yande, the voice of the adolescents, says the young people want State House to have a youth advisor who will speak for the actual needs of their generation. This is serious food for thought and the earlier it is digested, the better not only for this young generation, but also for the nation at large.
Notably, the youths have demanded the enactment of the Child’s Code Bill, which Zambia ratified in 1992.
One wonders why this bill has not been enacted. Ratification of the bill, in essence, meant that Zambia agreed with it. So why take long in domesticating it? Thankfully, the wait will not be for much longer. President Hichilema has promised that the bill will be made into law. Evidently, there is now political will to walk this talk. The youth can rest assured on this matter. What they are unlikely to rest over, however, is getting to sit on the same table of advisors for the President. Again, the question is: why should there be any dithering? In the not too distant past, we had desks at State House for street vendors and for those of the pulpit. Surely, the youth deserve a place at the table too. It is an anomaly to suggest or imply that children’s issues should only be attended to once in a year – during commemorative days. And the best way to address the plight of young people is to involve them every day and to constantly review laws and policies that affect them. The youths and children face a myriad of challenges that range from lack of education opportunities to child labour, lack of social security and other forms of vulnerability. They face a bleak future unless efforts are made to address their plight. It ought to be noted too that formulation of policies, as good as they may be, is not an end in itself. Implementation of these policies is what matters the most. That is why there must be proper monitoring and evaluation. This cannot be an annual activity. The new dawn government shows great promise of the youth getting their due entitlements. This may, for now, not be through an office at State House but policies that have a huge and direct bearing on these youths. A case in point is the proposed huge increase in the Constituency Development Fund from K1.6 million to K25.7 million. A significant amount of this money will be allocated to the youths. This is important because there will be a better spread of the national cake across the country. And as the youths push for that recognition as leaders for today, they too must demonstrate that they are indeed worthy of a place among decision-makers on national matters. This is not child’s play. Many youths are clearly well educated on various matters and they would add value to national discussions, but it is also true that most of the youths still need to be schooled on conduct. The misbehaviour of some youths put doubt in the minds of many people on reasonableness in giving authority to them. The bottom line, though, is that the youth deserve more attention and involvement in their affairs.

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