17 November 2014

Zimbabwe's Lost Generation by ChrisNqoe

"Courage sometimes skips a generation."
I've written on the state of local youths before but I'm not sure I've ever been in such a disillusioned state or projected the anger and fear that harbours in the collective minds of Zimbabwe's born free
generation. For many fellow youths, born some years into Zimbabwe's independence, we inherited a country whose worst years were behind it. The liberation struggle, sanctions, threat of Civil war, international isolation, genocidal massacres and an uncertain future.

Like millions of young Zimbabweans born after 1980, we came into a hopeful world, a functioning country and a nation with potential to be one of Africa's success stories. In 1990, Zimbabwe had one of Africa's most impressive statistics, one of the world's best education policies with an economy that was the envy of many developing countries.

"Millions of young Zimbabweans...came into a hopeful world"
(GFDL Licence)
That story has been told so many times, exhausted beyond measure and exploited as the tale of how much could go wrong in so little time.

I'm not interested in telling the politics of Zimbabwe. I'm concerned about who'll tell the story of a generation of young Zimbabweans who have watched their country collapse, get plundered and destroyed by a generation of leaders who, ironically, were brave enough to go to war for it.

It might not all be doom and gloom for Zimbabwe's youth, many have transitioned through the academic cycle, graduated out of Zimbabwe's celebrated education system, in local and foreign universities. And then, began confronting the struggles of the real world. A world we were promised would accept us with all our qualifications and lack of experience. Or so we thought.

The reality of Zimbabwe is one were there's an entire generation that refuses to pass on chances to younger minds with fresher, radical and more relevant ideas. The problem Zimbabwe faces is not political. It's generational. It's a reluctance to accept natural change and advancement of ideas over the stagnancy of old systems.  It's a rigidity of perceptions and a stubborn refusal to accept the stale
nature of old school ideas that no longer fit into the globalised world we live in.

In the fields of politics, public administration, corporate world and ordinary life, willingness for innovation and adoption of new ideas is what determines the success of entities.

Perhaps it's time for our generation to take charge of its own destiny. Like the young men and women who felt compelled to take up arms and fight for their country's liberation. The moment is ours now, to channel our activism against old political systems into creating a new, reliable, youthful presence on the upper rungs of politics. Our country needs us.

The current system is simply not working for young people and the signs are there. We may be a demographic that was not inhibited by the racial inequalities that our parents faced. But, we must really be concerned that we are a generation that will be poorer than our parents. This is a reality we have to face.

A lack of jobs and financial difficulties are something most of us have in common. Many educated young people are leaving university with no prospect of a stable job, guarantee of employment or likelihood of financial independence.

Unemployment rates in Zimbabwe are amongst the highest in the world.
Central Intelligence Agency data (GNU Licence)

There exist sad common factors amongst young Zimbabweans. A lingering feeling of disenfranchisement because our government systems are not properly listening to our problems and the solutions we are offering. Young people are not being given a chance to lead. However, the answer to Zimbabwe's lack of growth, in so many ways, is found in its reluctance to allow youth led innovation.

The older generation feels threatened by young millenials; this is a sad but true indictment. In discussions with my peers, there is a similar frustration, we are not being given a chance to effect change, and this is not referring to Zimbabwe's troubled politics.

None of us sees the world in guarantees, our parents told us to work hard and we would be rewarded with success. Our current state tells otherwise.  We are a generation that's stagnant, unable to grow up. We don't have jobs or own homes. We have young educated job-seekers who rely on their parents for financial support, most of us stay at home because we can't afford to move out and pay rent.

Youth unemployment is a daily reality for millions and Alcoholism is a deadly animal that's consuming thousands of young Zimbabweans. Hopelessness is trait that's become second nature for many. But unlike the generations before us, we have few options. We cannot go to war. We can’t fly abroad. Jumping the border is not a choice. It's tougher out there. Zimbabwe is our option, but a collective effort is required to make it liveable for young people.

What solutions do we offer?  We need economic and social policies that are youth friendly and focused. Just as there exist government measures that protect Pensioners, Civil Servants and War Vets. Let young people come up with these solutions. Employ young people. Lower the retirement age. Enforce paid internships. Introduce learner ships and invest more funding to vocational education. Give funding, resources and support to youth led business ideas. Don't simply give
us money, train young people to be good wealth managers. Zimbabwe has millions of young people with educational qualifications, ideas, energy and patriotism. Take advantage of this.

Who am I speaking to? To you, the older generation. To all of you who were born in Rhodesia. Yes, you endured the hardships of colonial rule, but young people cannot be paying you forever. You took back your country, liberated your people, benefited from land reform and nationalised our country's natural resources. Is that not enough?

Give young people a chance.

A Hopeless Dawn - Frank Bramley 1888
(Creative Commons 2.0 Licence)
Passionate about Law & Media, Chris Dube is a disillusioned young Zimbabwean.
Follow him on Twitter: @ChrisNqoe

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