Wheelbarrows (I guess the non-carcinogenic type) have become the symbol of the so called youth empowerment programs by the jubilee government. None less than the President and the CS of Devolution and now of Youth have been seen with wheelbarrows and shovels in the slums “launching” youth empowerment programs. The symbolism got me wondering if this is something they do with their own children, giving them wheelbarrows to empower them. It must be remembered that Uhuru and Ruto though largely tribal kingpins, campaigned under the banner of youth empowerment and a the creation of a “digital” generation.
They are now creating a wheelbarrow generation.
As soon as they got into government, they fell back onto doing what they know how to do best, entrench their tribal henchmen into government in readiness for looting. They forgot one thing, that their CORD elder siblings were out of government and they were hungry and angry. Very angry. Unlike in the blood-soaked coalition government where all were eating and all were quiet and happy, CORD was not going to let jubilee eat alone, so they did what they do best, they made noise, and a lot of it. The first casualty was the “wheelbarrow” empowerment programs. It turned out that while the youth were getting shovels and wheelbarrows, jubilee mandarins were feasting on billions of NYS money. Wheelbarrows do not cost that much and therefore there was enough left to gorge themselves on.
They claim they have fixed the looting problem and the wheelbarrows are back. They are a perfect symbol of how cynical the jubilee government is when it comes to the issue of youth development in the country. Of all the promises it made to the youth, none has been fulfilled. Jubilee has decided to simplify things for themselves, and the most visible and tangible youth program they have to show after all the shouting and campaigning is the wheelbarrows. The rest remains on paper and in their imagination. They have not explained how the wheelbarrow empowerment is supposed to sort out the issue of millions of educated youths, some very educated, who do not have jobs.
I need to be categorical here. There is nothing in this country that is more urgent than sorting out the economic, social and political disenfranchisement of the youth.
Especially not the things that the jubilee government has been shouting about. Not railways, not electricity, not Galana, not devolution, not fertilizer, nothing. There has not been a country in the world that has modernized without investing massively in inspiring the youth, the single most important resource in the development of any country. Jubilee should also show us any country in the world that has modernized by giving its youth wheelbarrows and shovels.
The problem of underdevelopment in Africa can be traced to the same economic, social and political disenfranchisement of her youth. To be productive, the youth need modern skills, quality jobs and access to the means of production so that they can be successful entrepreneurs. But beyond this, the youth need inspiration. Ken Robinson one of the foremost modern thinkers in education puts it very well:
Human resources are like natural resources; they’re often buried deep. You have to go looking for them, they’re not just lying around on the surface. You have to create the circumstances where they show themselves.
Like a government invests in mining oil and other minerals, it must invest in mining the great talents and possibilities in our youth.
That a whole governments’ most visible program for its youth is to provide them with implements of manual labor, trench digging and toilet constructions is a sad fact for a country with a huge and talented youth population like Kenya. It tells you that the government is led by fellows who have totally run out of ideas. They are busy investing billions of shillings in a railway and in power generation in a futile and misguided effort “to modernize the country and make it easier to do business”. What jubilee has forgotten is that railways and electricity do not modernize nations. The youth are a country’s greatest asset for modernization bar none. Any modernization program that does not involve grand, innovative and world-class programs for the youth is nonsense. And as far as nonsense goes, you can’t do worse than the jubilee wheelbarrow and shovels program.
You cannot build the future for the youth, you build the youth for the future. I will believe that jubilee has a program for the development of the youth when I see mega projects that are meant to develop the best of skills and talents in our young people to make them globally competitive, not wheelbarrows and shovels.
If they want an example of how mature and visionary youth skill and talent development programs look like, they only have to look at China, the place where they go to beg for money to build railways. Youth development start with dreams, mammoth, out of this world, long term and futuristic dreams. Dreams that recognize that youth is a resource to be developed and not a problem to be solved. And when it comes to dreaming for it’s youth, China dreams big as we give our youth shovels and wheelbarrows.
For example: Start with a dream and a vision for the youth -a big one – China wants to become one of the world’s soccer superpowers by 2050. Yes. 2050. Jubilee has no plans for anything much less the youth beyond the 2017 general election. They will tell you they have Vision 2030. It has no significant dreams for the youth.
So what is China doing to achieve this vision for its youth, some of whom are yet unborn? (You do not expect that the young people who will fulfill these lofty dreams for China have been born. In fact, those who will actualize the vision in 2050 will not be born until 2030, when your governments’ super blueprint for development expires!) China is doing great things. Very great things. Within the next four years, China aims to have 20,000 soccer academies and 50 million youth playing the sport nationwide. And this is not the kusema na ku-tender nonsense of the amateurish and tribal jubilee government. They are serious. Very serious. To start with, they have build a USD185, 000, 000 (Ksh. 18.5 Billion) soccer academy, the largest in world, called the Evergrande International Football School, in Qingyuan, Guangdong. The academy has 50 (yes fifty) soccer pitches spread in over 160 acres and 3000 students. And by the way, the academy was built in just 10 months.
It is often said:
“The tragedy of life is not that we dream very big awesome dreams and fail to reach them, the tragedy is that we dream very cheap simplistic dreams and achieve them.”
Will a wheelbarrow program even if successful lift the youth of this nation to be the best they can be among their peers anywhere in the world? Jubilee will argue that the youth are desperate and it is better they do anything than stay idle. Fine. Are these the dreams that the jubilee mandarins have for their own children?
I have never met a young person in Kenyan whose dream is to push wheelbarrows. Kenyan youth have lofty dreams. So the question is, why would a regime seek to turn such an ambitious generation into a wheelbarrow one? The answer is simple, preservation of its own power. Jubilee knows that the only demography that can cut short their declared 20 year regime into five short ones is the youth. So they have to keep them in the gutter, fruitlessly laboring away their potential but with no real chance of becoming a threat to the jubilee hegemony. In other words, the wheelbarrow program is a sickening cynical way to keep the children of the poor from revolting against Jubilee excesses and ruining the party for their own children.
But in the words of Robert Kennedy:
A revolution is coming. A revolution which will be peaceful if we are wise enough, compassionate if we care enough and successful if we are fortunate enough. But a revolution which is coming whether we will it or not. We can affect its character, we cannot alter its inevitability.
Ensconced in their believe that all they need is to lock in a tribal vote and keep the youth in the gutter in order to rule us for the next twenty years, Jubilee is sleeping through the revolution. It is their comfort in the politics of ethnicity, impunity and mediocrity siasa ya ukabila ukora na upuzi that will inspire a new generation of actors. (Please read my article “Of a feckless jubilee and CORD Kakistocrasy and the optimist’s alternative narrative” for more on this here http://profmichaelwainaina.com/2016/03/07/of-a-feckless-jubilee-and-cord-kakistocrasy-and-the-optimists-alternative-narrative/)
Jubilee cynicism towards the masses of disenfranchised youth better heed the advice of Alvin Toffler:
“The secret message communicated to most young people today by the society around them is that they are not needed, that the society will run itself quite nicely until they — at some distant point in the future — will take over the reigns. Yet the fact is that the society is not running itself nicely… because the rest of us need all the energy, brains, imagination and talent that young people can bring to bear down on our difficulties. For society to attempt to solve its desperate problems without the full participation of even very young people is imbecile”.
In the word of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere
“Thamani ya taifa ni kuwa na vijana wenye malezi bora, siha jema na mbongo kali”.
He should have added
“Hatari ya taifa ni ujinga wa siasa za ukabila, ukora, na upuzi.”
As far as upuzi goes, it does not get more upuzi than jubilees attempt to create a wheelbarrow generation, to institute a cynical demeaning youth program, meant to keep the children of the poor in the gutter. It is a strategy to perpetuate their regime, but the youth are fed-up, and a revolution is coming.