In present-day Ethiopia it is a matter of urgent priority to put the youth front and center in national development endeavors. This is particularly applicable to Ethiopia given the youth and children make up about 70 percent of the 90-plus million population of Ethiopia. It is imperative to not only give due consideration to safeguarding the interest of the youth in the political, economic and social affairs of the country, but also to see to it that the youth participate directly or indirectly in decision-making processes. Currently, the importance attached to the welfare of the youth in Ethiopia leaves much to be desired.
True, from primary schools to rural areas to universities over 30 million youth and children are presently pursuing academic as well as technical and vocational education across Ethiopia. This said, they are surrounded by a raft of challenges that divert them from their education and other important things in their lives. The dancing dens, gambling houses, massage parlors, pensions and other establishments proliferating in towns all over the country are threatening the future of an entire generation. What is the government exactly doing to avert the danger? How about parents and the society at large?
If the relevant structures at all levels of government, councils of peoples’ representatives, religious institutions and mass-based organizations are unconcerned about the youth’s fate, then who will? How can one talk about development when schools and residential areas have been invaded by greed-blinded commercial enterprises which expose the youth to all sorts of vices? To make matters worse, the grounds of sports arenas have been taken over for the construction of commercial/residential buildings while nothing concrete is being done to make available public libraries and parks in abundance or encourage the private sector to invest in them. All this calls into question the government’s declared commitment to the youth’s cause.
Anyone strolling through Addis Ababa is bound to be amazed by the construction boom under way. Without detracting from the city’s growth and transformation, the youth are not living up to their potential due to the lack of attention given to physical development as to human development. A country like Ethiopia cannot extricate itself from the clutches of poverty and prosper if all stakeholders fail to invest in building up its social capital, particularly in terms of enhancing the capacity of the youth. Why is the government lackadaisical in tackling the multi-faceted challenges standing in the way of the youth? Who shall save them from a bleak future?
The Ministry of Youth and Sports, which has gone through countless reorganization in the past, is primarily responsible for implementing the youth policy that was adopted some years back. Why has the ministry not devoted to the youth a similar level of attention as it has lavished on sports?Is there anything concrete being done beyond regurgitating the usual rhetoric? Or is it still preoccupied with football despite the lack of enthusiasm on the part of the youth to revive the country’s flagging fortune in the sport? Isn’t it abundantly clear that the disinterest is predominantly attributable to the dearth of facilities and competitions, factors that are instrumental in fostering greater passion for football? Is it possible to excel in any type of sport without grooming athletes from a young age? Unless these and similar issues are promptly addressed, dire consequences are bound to ensue. Whom should all this trouble the most if not the government?
The problems confronting the Ethiopian youth are complex and grave. The youth are despairing due to inattention in alleviating these challenges forcing many to resort to crime, prostitution, illegal land perilous immigration, and the like. It’s not by erecting high rise buildings or infrastructures alone that poverty can be eliminated; it also requires facilitating the conditions enabling the youth to pursue higher education, take up physical exercise, refrain from getting involved engaging in illicit practices and generally become productive citizens capable of taking their country to the next level. The youth have to turn out into a physically, psychologically and morally fit generation that is self-assured and mature. Even as they do their part, parents and communities must exhort the government to ensure that it put a halt to practices which destroy the youth. That is why the government has to be asked what it has in store for the youth.