I thought it important to take the time to clarify where prudent and to take a stance where necessary on a number of issues raised and implied by Job Amupanda in his thought provoking opinion piece in The Villager titled “Towards a New National Youth Manifesto”.
I do so in the interest of contributing to what should really be a youth wide dialogue on the key youth development issues such as consensus on an issue based framework for engagement on youth matters and the persistent challenges In implementing and advancing the resolutions of the myriad of conferences, conventions, convocations and whichever name may exist for a gathering of people to discuss a given theme.
I have always believed and will continue to believe that in order to find the right solution to a problem; we must ask the right question. The answer that Job provides to us is that Namibia needs a National Youth Manifesto, along the lines of Nigeria’s very impressive Youth Manifesto, which was used by the National Youth Council of Nigeria as a lobby tool in that country’s recent Presidential election. Mind you, I was subsequently informed that the NYC in Nigeria used this as basis to endorse the PDP candidate in those elections, a realm of partisanship I would not wish us to extend to, with the NYC in Namibia. However, Job is very instructive about what the challenge is.
I have to agree that certainly we need a new approach on the “how to” component considering the degree of indifference by Government with the state of you development in our country. The Board of the NYC has tried various approaches, even going to the extent of seeking the intervention of the highest office in the land. Our efforts as a board confirm Job’s thinking that there is something amiss. I trust my remarks at the opening of the 5th NYC General Assembly, at the end of 2010 in the presence of the nation’s youth leaders and the President of the country amongst others present, where instructive in this regard.
Comrade President that national youth council its members and structures welcome your decision to establish a fully fledged ministry of youth as well as the appointment of a minster and a deputy minster with strong associations within the youth movement. It is, however, my wish that all of our youth development institution including the NYS, MYNSSC, the NYC and others, be directed to work in concert with each other in order to mitigate the great challenges that impact on the lives of our youth.
Again confirming Job’s assertion that something is amiss on the delivery front, certainly we both do agree that something somewhere is not right.
However, I disagree on both the questions being implied in Job’s piece and the answers given. The answer cannot only be a new National Youth Manifesto (NYM) as Job puts it, as for all intends and purposes we know what is wrong and even what programs are needed to address these wrongs and despite popular misconception there is a consensus on what these are.
These are outlined in the National Youth Policy, The African Youth Charter, and the Declarations of the National Youth Conference. Also, the previous National Executive Committee (NEC) of the NYC has even gone to the extent of outlining to the General Assembly how NYC can play its role (it must be understood that NYC is only one of a myriad of youth development institutions in Namibia, others include, NYS, DYD, PON, UNAM, MHSS, MOE, NSFAS. Apart from these, organisations like SPYL have gone to great lengths to articulate their congress resolution by specifically coming up with its SPYL Economic Convention Declaration to all who cared to listen. In my view Comrades must realise, we are beyond the stage of asking what must be done. What we now need to do is to increase our demand for relevant programs and to ensure that such programs are funded.
What Programs are needed?
From the perspective of the NYC, it is important that we continue to make our members and structures understand that the leading role for the delivery of programs must be ourselves, as youth organisations and that such delivery must extent to especially rural areas. Therefore, the work of the NYC in essence and strategically must be to improve the ability of youth organisation to deliver youth driven programs in their communities, as well as improving soft and hard skills of individuals needed to do so. I am sure that Comrade Job finds it as frustrating as I do that very few youth often discuss the essence of ones writings. At the very best one may get an acknowledgment of an article in a newspaper or a television appearance without active engagement on the essence of such.
It is to this extend that I was pleased the GA mandated the board to drive programs in the following areas, which in my view answers NYC part of broad challenges that we face. I have said and will say it again here, for the benefit of us all that to merely shout “we want youth empowerment” will not deliver youth empowerment to us.
I can only speak for youth development and not for other sectors when I say that my view is that there are genuine and realistic options which have been put on the table. Why no one takes the time to digest them and come back to one with some sort of a response is beyond me. I have said some of this on a piece on my personal blog (madibak.tigblog.org).
Therefore (and do pardon the French), I have and will continue to apportion significant blame on the inability of our system to respond to our demands to the Government of the Republic of Namibia. No one, except The Right Hon Nahas Angula, MP, in a discussion with me and some colleagues, a long-time ago when he was still minister responsible for youth has ever been able to give me some semblance of a satisfactory answer. His answer was in the form of a question, which highlighted serious deficiencies on the part of youth and youth organisations also.
There are serious constraints on our part, which are very saddening and which restrain my own ability to answer truthfully the question” if government would accede to all youth demands would you, be in a position to handle the responsibility and account for resources?”
Many of us would be tempted to give an emphatic YES, but if you ask me and if my experience with youth organisations and structures counts for anything, I would say we need a hell of a long road to go in this regard. This is an internal soul searching that we need to have amongst ourselves and our government must work with us to overcome shortfalls.
The problems that need further probing in this regard are,
•Why the reluctance to empower the NYC on the part of our Government?
•How do we increase capacity and political will to keep pace with the changing, modernising and complex state of the nation’s youth?
•And most importantly how do we increase capacity on our own part to be able to manage account for and articulate the youth development paradigm and resources.
I am passionate for this reason in advancing the cause of capacity development for youth to know, understand, articulate and engage with their world in a coherent and responsible manner; our youth must be exposed to the best of what this world has to offer (culturally, intellectually and developmentally) and experiences of other youth, so that they can match their own abilities against those of other youth.
Namibian youth must be able to contextualise the world through their own eyes considering that the world is entering the crest of unprecedented economic, security, political and ecological crisis. Namibian youth may get caught up and seduced by the wave of unrest that we see worldwide, most recently in the UK.