Analysis: ROBBIE MUSAKUZI
ZAMBIA celebrates Youth Day every year on March 12 to remember and commemorate the young people’s socio-economic and political contribution to the Zambian society since and before independence.
The nation every year joins many other countries throughout the world to commemorate Youth Day in order to also re-focus efforts and strategies to overcome socio-economic and political obstacles because the youth make up a large proportion of the national population.
Youth Day celebrations this year are once again at the centre stage all over the world because it is now acknowledged that it is only the youths themselves who can lead and liberate themselves from the worldly injustice.
Unlike other commemoration days, Youth Day celebrations around the world are held on different dates and months within the year chosen by individual countries. The United Nations International Youth Day is held each year on August 12 and was first organised in the year 2000 to celebrate the contribution that young people make in education, conflict resolution and social justice, to name a few.
The Uni ted Nat ions’ and internationally accepted definition of a youth is any citizen of a country aged between 15 and 24 years. The United Nations International Youth Day celebration initiative celebrates the qualities of these young people and the focus of late is to identify tangible solutions and recognise the different challenges today’s youth face throughout the world. Each year a different theme is chosen. The 2017 theme was “Youths building peace”.
Zambia, with some few other countries around the world, has always celebrated and commemorated Youth Day long before the United Nations recognised it in 2000.
Government and social action organisations such as schools, colleges, universities and local councils have always organised youth events with marches, sports and numerous other activities accompanied by speeches for political action to help the nation’s youth.
This is highly motivating but in Zambia and other African countries, with an ever-increasing high proportion of youth population, unresolved youth problems and challenges keep on increasing and drowning the efforts and solutions of the government of the day.
What has compounded youth problems and challenges in Zambia and many other African countries is that the majority of the youths are in the forefront of alcohol and, of late, social media abuse, petty crime, economic sabotage, vandalism, political mischievousness, laziness, illicit sex, teenage pregnancies, disrespect for adults, total lack of appreciation of well-intended efforts and sacrifice of their parents and the government of the day.
It is now widely recognised that this needs to change if African countries are to make significant socio-economic progress, and this must begin with all youths in schools, colleges, universities and streets.
The whole African continent has been wondering as to what has gone wrong with the youths of today, because not long ago they were in the frontline of fighting for independence and liberation of their countries? For instance, on June 16, 1976, a demonstration in Soweto, South Africa, led largely by high school youths, angered at the white racist apartheid government policies and at a huge cost of life, initiated the eventual downfall of that government.
Today, Youth Day in South Africa is held to honour the courage and sacrifice of the uprising youths in Soweto and the millions of other youths throughout Africa who stood with them in solidarity during that critical moment in history.
This story of youth bravery and sacrifice can be narrated in every African country, including Zambia. As we celebrate and commemorate Youth Day this year, it is our hope that the youths of today in Zambia and other African countries can mobilise themselves and fight the current national problems and challenges of social media abuse, corruption, tribalism, nepotism, regionalism, hedonism, lack of respect for elders, impatience and insatiable desire to gain wealth and political power at all cost.
Zambian and other African youths will only play this pivotal role in socio-economic development of their countries if they stop listening and being misled by over-zealous, self-centred, politically and economically frustrated adults who were once given a chance to perform but failed and now see no hope but just to create fear and tension in the country.
Currently, there is no country on earth which is not going through socio-economic and political challenges. In fact, comparatively across Africa, the majority of youths in Zambia have better opportunities and face a much brighter future.
Pope Francis of the Catholic Church delivered a message for the 33rd World Youth Day to be celebrated on Palm Sunday, March 25, 2018 and says to the youths of the world, ‘Do not be afraid, God also reads our inmost heart. He knows well the challenges we must confront in life, especially when we are faced with the fundamental choices on which depend who we will be and what we will do in this world.’ (Press Release of the Dicastery for the Laity, Message of the Holy Father, Rome, Feb, 2018)
The author is an international associate, African Centre for Disaster Studies.
Analysis: ROBBIE MUSAKUZI