Youths must be armed with skills to develop the nation, says Okonkwo

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WITH over one million youths thrown into the labour market every academic year, governments in Nigerian have been tasked to seek ways to create jobs that will mop up this critical mass for national development. 

Okonkwo answering questions after the lecture

Making the charge during the celebration of the 2019 International Youths Day at the Shanahan Hall, Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha, the Founder, Pro-Value Humanity Foundation (PVHF), Dr. Obiora Okonkwo, also challenged youths not to feel limited by their age but to nurse the capacity to look beyond the walls around them.

In his lecture, “SDGs And Their Impact On The Youth,” Okonkwo stated that the challenge before governments, faith based organisations, private enterprises is how to explore certain government policies in order to expand business and employment opportunities for the youths.

He therefore called for a return “to the drawing board to see how we can re-work our education curriculum so as to focus more on vocational and technical education, which has the capacity to equip youths with the technical know-how before they leave school.”

Obiora Okonkwo delivering his lecture

He explained that the skill gap is the reason why many basic skilled jobs have been farmed-out to skilled workers from neighbouring countries because our youths lack same skills.

Okonkwo lamented that despite this lack of skill to employ themselves and create jobs for others, “the youths aspire for the quick and easy money, desire to drive the best cars and dream of living the lifestyles associated with high income earners like football stars and musicians,” and spend more time in betting offices.

He reminded the youths that there are no limits to what they can become and that age was not limit to achievement. 

He said: “The late Prof. Chinua Achebe, wrote the classic novel, “Things Fall Apart” in his 20s. He had no cellphone or internet or laptop when he did that. Today, you have much more than he had.”

Okonkwo noted further that with the youth making up a staggering 60% of the Nigerian population, “the implication is that even the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) of eradicating poverty is in jeopardy because not having jobs means not having an income.

“If the youths are unemployed, hungry, unclothed, not housed, not educated etc, they hardly will be concerned about other social goals like maintaining clean cities, clan environments, sustainable climate habits, etc.”

Okonkwo noted the growing need to refocus the educational system towards technical and vocational education, which will empower the youths with the necessary skills to become self-reliant as they leave school.

Youths at the Shanahan Hall, Basilica of the Most Holy Trinity, Onitsha

He added: “I don’t believe that our youths are only good to become keke-drivers, okada riders, motor park touts or persons who spend the rest of their day at betting offices hoping for a windfall.

“Youths must think critically beyond their immediate environments; become change-makers because they have the numbers. 

“They must challenge the limits and exploring new ideas and proffer new solutions, become communicators and communicate the change that they want to see in the polity through positive social actions and engagements. 

“They must lead the change in their immediate communities by translating what they have learnt into practical solutions. That is why the future belongs to them.”

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