Give the youth a real chance

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At least 38.4% of the population in Botswana are youth which translates into   atleast 769 501 in absolute numbers. This shows that our population is youthful hence we really need to pay much attention to the youth. When Government recognized the important role played by youth in contributing to socio-economic development objectives, it came up with the youth policy of 1996 which was reviewed in 2010. This was in an endeavor to promote youth issues and to stimulate the need for youth to contribute optimally to sustainable national development and growth.

Legislation for youth development is there but is it enough? Is it giving this youthful population an opportunity to blossom or are we only trying to do what is the norm. What is important in my presentation will be, ‘Resilience’. I believe resilience can bring desired results if we carefully look at it. Resilience is more than just a set of behaviors or personality traits that we associate with health and successful growth. It is the ability of children to convince their caregivers that they are healthy. Many resilient students are overlooked by their schools and communities because how they survive does not conform to what the teachers and others in position of authority like young people to be doing.

This oversight is ironic. After all there are many people who have risen to greater heights despite the attempted pull back by those around them. We can have an example of an Indian adolescent growing in England who is gifted at playing soccer but whose parents refuse to let her play. Breaking with her cultural traditions is her way of resisting the prejudice aimed at her by the wider community (Watch the movie Bend it Like Beckham).

Though we might not like the methods young people use to find resilience, we cannot ignore the success they achieve through both conventional and frequently unconventional ways. What is needed is to mentor this youth to channel their energy to the right opportunities.

The youth need adults to help them understand the benefits they derive from both their conventional and unconventional behavior. This is reinforced by Bronfenbrenner (1989) in his ecological model. He indicates that individual behavior occurs within a multiple embedded ecological system. This happens at the micro, messo and macro levels. At the microsystem it consists of the people whom an individual comes into direct contact; this will include the family, school, work place and others.

Our role as the community is to help the youth by showing tolerance for youth’s risk taking behaviors and offering structure to help keep them safe.

The policy, programs and the officers are there, now it is the opportunity for us as the community to be there for the youth. When given the opportunity, youth will help adults understand their lives better. The categories we relish using to sort kids are barriers to understanding them. Wise adults leave narrow and stereotype diagnoses to those who want to remain smug in their ignorance of young people’s truth. It is time we move from the truth of the legislation to act on helping this young nation realize its potential; it is time we start supporting  our young people who want  to do things in an unconventional manner because the conventional does not always unleash the potential in the them.

Kgomotso Jongman
Social worker or