In most nations, the youth constitute the majority of the population. But just how well appreciated is the young person’s role and contribution in shaping their country’s future? When Finance and Development Planning Minister Kenneth Matambo presented his budget to the nation this week, a greatly interested segment of the population was the youth. Did Matambo meet the expectations of this restless, resourceful and innovative group? Correspondent NNASARETHA KGAMANYANE spoke to young Batswana to hear their views on the budget and youth.
The budget failed to address pertinent issues affecting the youth of this country, says Thamani Modie, a construction company owner.
“Specifically it failed to offer tangible employment opportunities for graduates who have been roaming the streets jobless for years,” he says.
His view is that planned projects in construction for this financial year will absorb very few of the unemployed young people.
He adds: “The mention of a 30 percent ministerial budget reserved for the youth without deliberate projects and programmes aimed at employing them will only serve to distress the already hopeless and dejected young people of this country”.
Modie believes the Ipelegeng programme, formerly a drought relief government initiative, is a mockery of the skills possessed by many young people.
“We have skilled youth who for the first time in the history of this country find the Ipelegeng programme well paying and have joined it to earn a salary,” he says, tongue-in-cheek.
His sarcasm is calculated.
Ipelegeng beneficiaries earn P500 per month and are hired on a rotational basis.
He continues: “There is nothing more painful than having gone to school for donkey years, with all these expectations and then staying jobless for years with no prospect of employment”. Modie is not amused at the amount of time and space minister Matambo allotted youth. “The minister failed the youth. You cannot have one small and vague paragraph devoted to such a crucial issue as unemployment. It simple shows lack of commitment and seriousness on the part of the minister. By failing the youth he failed the country, and tragically for that matter,” he says.
Modie adds: “What we need from the minister is the number of permanent jobs that will be created for the youth this year, not theories. As it is, this budget says nothing of those who have remained jobless since graduation”.
Modie says government must realise that its failure to create jobs for youth has led to high crime rates.
“Surely we need to do things differently if we are to achieve any meaningful solutions to the problems facing our youth,” he says.
Thomamo Kakua shares his frustration.
His major gripe is government’s failure to appreciate sports and recreation as important aspects of nation-building. Kakua argues: “This is one sector that can be used to empower our youth even from a tender age. We have failed to utilise our so-called ‘peace and stability’”. Establishing a well-equipped sports academy seems to be difficult for our government, he says.
The question, he says, is do we have the right people for ministers [who can] research and facilitate such projects?
He believes such projects can go a long way in creating employment for young people. In fact, he believes there are many other ways of creating employment for them. “Recognising and developing other indigenous languages can also create employment as more teachers would be employed,” Kakua says.
As more people use their mother languages, those who want to further the propagation of those languages will create jobs.
“We can expect radio stations and newspapers in those languages, and that means more employment opportunities,” he says. Oarabile Basiame of Mathangwane Train Association, a youth empowerment organisation, is equally disappointed with the budget.
“We had expected that issues of the youth would stand out and be elaborated upon,” he says.
Like Modie, he believes there is no point having thousands of graduates if they are going to roam the streets. He says: “We expected the government to tell us what it does or intends to do to address the matter.
When Tirelo Sechaba was re-introduced, as youth we believed it was not a solution. We expected the minister to explain how it has benefited the youth, and he failed in that regard”.
Basiame says the government should explain how it plans to create sustainable employment for the youth.
Furthermore government should support young business people by buying services from them. “We also expected the government to change Youth Fund requirements so that more young people can qualify for assistance, but the minister failed to address issues around this major government initiative,” he says.
Director of Botswana National Youth Council, Benjamin Raletsatsi however differs. “Just like a parent the budget is focusing on basic needs of Batswana, including the youth. It is important for government to look after our general well-being, not to entice Batswana with wants,” he says.
Raletsatsi believes the budget addresses all pertinent issues around labour and employment. “Inclusive growth is all we want to see, but we must accept that the government cannot absorb all the unemployed. That is where the private sector comes in,” he adds.
Raletsatsi says it is upsetting that some Batswana would rather question success than celebrate it, adding that the nation needed to appreciate what the government was doing.
However, he agreed the budget should have dedicated more space and time to sports and recreation.
“Let drivers of sport such as Nigel Amos and Amantle Montsho be recognised. They have put our country on the map and have helped attract tourists,” he says.