Let us find practical solutions for our jobless Ugandan youths

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Youth unemployment is one of the most serious and growing problems that Uganda is currently grappling with. According to 1982 ILO Resolution, a person who does not have work, one who is available for work and one who is actively looking for work is referred to as unemployed person. Unemployment is more common in the urban setting and higher in females than males.

In 2013, a new report showed that 62% of Ugandan youths were unemployed. This was a study named  “Lost Opportunity” carried out by Action Aid International Ugandan, Ugandan National NGO Forum and Development Research and Training. According to the Uganda National Household Survey Report 2009/2010 from Uganda National Bureau of Statistics, the unemployment rate of youths aged between 15-24 was 5.4% and 4.7% for those aged 18-30. In a World Bank report released in 2008, it was revealed that Uganda had the highest youth unemployment rate and the youngest population at 83% in 2012 in the entire world. These findings are very disturbing for most youths given the difficulties they go through to make it to their graduation day.

Youths are faced with challenges of paying the huge sums of money for tuition and read very hard to get well equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary for their respective professions. It is totally disheartening that at the end of the day, over 400,000 graduates are sent to the job market to scramble for the few available jobs available every year. What is worse is that in certain instances, for one to get one of these jobs, they need to have a network of family relatives, friends or a connection to the political or economic world in order to get a decent job. It is not very easy to get a job based on personal/ academic merit. There are graduates who over the years have failed to get jobs even when they completed university with a second class upper degree and have the skills to work in their respective fields.

Most job applicants are required to have work experience of 2-3 years or more yet the only experience most graduates are likely to have is that acquired during the 2-3 months of internship. The knowledge and skills got during this time is not enough for a student to know everything about the job. Related to this is the fact that students spend most of their time doing theoretical work and when they hit the streets to look for a job, they are rejected due to inadequate skills. A journalism student is likely to spend 2 years at university but fail to write a simple news story or fail to operate a camera, a finding that is alarming. Universities have gone ahead to create courses that do not provide a lot of job opportunities for the youth after graduation. There are many students rushing to do these courses even when they do not have adequate information on these courses.

The salary scale of a graduate is also not motivating for most youths. Some youths refuse to work because the salary they are promised is not enough compared to the income needed to sustain them. It is not enough to cater for rent, transport, meals, clothing and other personal needs. Those that accept to work are exploited in terms of labor. They do a lot of work for long hours and receive a salary that is not worth the efforts put in. This does not motivate most youths who later opt to quit these jobs.

We should note that the escalating number of unemployed youths is a critical problem for our society. These youths end up involving in indecent acts to help them get some money or pass time. They involve themselves in drug trafficking and abuse, alcoholism, smoking, killing, theft and robbery. A number of youths are promised jobs by family members, friends or people they meet while searching for jobs and they take up any job because they are very desperate. These youths are also whisked away by unknown human traffickers who promise them high paying jobs abroad as security men, housemaids or cashiers. These youths willingly or forcefully engage in cross-generational sex, prostitution, homosexuality, pornography while others become sex slaves.

My observation is that as much as the Ugandan government is trying to create programs that can help jobless youths, a lot of work still needs to be done. The government should revise the education curricula so that it aims at equipping students with practical skills needed in the work environment. The government should put emphasis on vocational training by financially supporting vocational institutes and encouraging parents and students to enroll for these courses. With training in hairdressing, catering, tailoring, building construction, plumbing, students get hands-on experience. It is easy for these youths to start their own businesses or get jobs because they are well acquainted with their work.

To help youths without academic qualifications, government should put in place capacity building programs about agriculture, entrepreneurship, trade and commerce so that they can be self-employed. Youths should be discouraged from engaging in shady deals like sports betting and gambling which are on the rise. Youths should be given a platform through the media, public dialogues and conferences where they can express their opinions so that the government can know what is currently affecting them and what can be done to assist them to move to greater heights. For instance, the Pakasa Forum 2014 shed some light on how to open up job opportunities for the youths. The youths were able to express their worries and they got practical solutions from a successful African man, President Uhuru Kenyatta.

More youths in rural areas should have access to low interest rate loans so that they can implement their business projects. All this is possible if the government makes partnerships with Non-governmental organisations, development partners, the media, economic institutions, religious leaders and community based organisations.