The Role of Our Youth In the Restoration of Mthwakazi:
As a way of introduction, I have observed some who seem to use our culture as a crutch in order to dictate in perpetuity that our young people’s roles are merely to sit amongst the adults, listen and not utter a word. They have been made to understand that their role is to respond only when asked or prompted to respond; otherwise they should stay put and not provide their feedback on matters just as pertinent to their welfare and future. Why is this so? One can only conclude this behavior is propagated from the standpoint of adult superiority, translated to mean that young people do not know anything and adults know it all. Most adults have not given them a chance to speak whilst in their presence, except for a few enlightened that have given them this opportunity. I must say that we must now recognize the fact that whilst they have sat amongst us all these years, they have been learning from us. They have used their own analytical skills to determine if our engagements and strategies have been successful or not. They have also used their own experiences to determine if our strategies will work for them or not. We must fully understand that the challenges they face are quite different from those that we face. We must remember that most of us had access to educational opportunities that they do not seem to have today. We had the best Ndebele, Math, Science, English teachers in the respective schools that we attended. Very often we take pride as we reminisce on some of the teachers we had. Some of us managed to leave the country in order to pursue better opportunities educationally and otherwise. Our children have managed to go to the same schools or even better. We have managed to build for ourselves some form of economic independence. Some of us have bought homes, we have mobility, and we take pride in the higher learning credentials that we possess. From a professional stand point we have managed to gain experience with various companies globally, to the extent that we can say in some regard we have received some exposure and relevant marketable skills.
This is not particularly the case with some of our young people who are growing up in Mthwakazi today. Their future is very gloomy from an economic, educational, social, and cultural perspective. They do not know what type of future they have as all the opportunities that I have highlighted here are not at their disposal. All these are foreign concepts to them. Their level of desperation for self-actualization and economic independence is significantly higher than ours. Some have graduated from our local universities and cannot get employment commensurate to their level of education. Others have attempted to attend university and their parents are unable to fund their education as we all know due to job losses that have occurred as a result of business closures in Bulawayo and other cities. Others have attempted to gain admission at NUST and they did not have the necessary pre-requites as they did not graduate from High Schools with Math or any of the Science subjects required to gain admission. Our High Schools in some regard are ill equipped due to lack of qualified teachers and facilities to prepare our youth for higher learning institutions. Others have attempted to start businesses, and due to the names their carry, they were not awarded the licenses required to start these businesses, nor did they have the necessary capital to start these businesses. As they think of their future and how they will provide for their families, all they see is darkness and hopelessness. With what means will they be able to buy homes, or afford their own transportation? Should they accept as status quo that they will always use Umtshova to go from one place to another? Is that what we want for them? Is it not possible that they have the right to fight for their own self-determination?
I remember when we were growing up how our clubs in the High Density Suburbs were equipped with all sorts of sports equipment and games. We had swimming pools, netball and soccer fields. You could play table tennis or long tennis. We had an opportunity to learn arts, crafts and culture, and we could take part in a cast of a play. I remember some of the Christmas activities that were decked with all sorts including singing Christmas carols, participation in nativity plays, etc. etc. Clubs played a very important role in our upbringing and they exposed us to another dimension that our educational institutions did not and hence facilitated some form of balance in preparing us for the future and the world at large. Those who worked in these clubs served as our mentors in one capacity or another and they served another role in addition to the teachers we had. This is foreign to the young person growing up in Mthwakazi today.
Some have grown up as orphans due to the AIDS epidemic. Others continue to hear of family members that were lost during the Gukurahundi Genocide and wonder why we have not done something about it. Some witness family members that were injured as a result of the same and wonder how long these scars will continue to haunt us as a people. They have been crying out for someone to do something. I hope this narration helps you understand their level of desperation.
With all being said, I strong believe:
- Now is the time for us to listen to our youth with the mind of learning from them as well. Some adults have the mindset that it is taboo to learn from the young. I must say to those of us who think that way, “That is backward thinking”. We need to change and change quickly we must.
- We must acknowledge they have been learning from us and now they are ready to implement what they have learnt in their own way.
- We must now start grooming them to be our future leaders and that also means preparing to step aside to give them free reign to exercise their creativity without us standing in their way.
- We should recognize that their skills are not particularly to be utilized for our benefit only, as we see in some cases when we encounter technological challenges which is one of their strengths you hear some of our adults say, “Wena mfana akubuye lapha ozungilungisela icomputer le. Uthi ungaqeda lapha ungilungisele i e-mail yami ngoba izinto lezi angikwazi ukuthi zisebenza njani”. After they have assisted us, they are supposed to sit and be quiet until summoned for the next assignment. How ridiculous is that I must say? It is time for us to change and learn to partner with our young people. This mindset is no longer sustainable.
- Now is the time to shift gears. We have been operating in first gear and yet expect to gain acceleration. We all know that acceleration or gaining of speed has never occurred when one remains in first gear. We must now change to second gear and then to third and so forth. There are many other factors like unity that will enable us to progress from one gear to the next. In this particular context, engaging our youth is another factor and a very critical one.
- We must now learn to trust their judgment.
- We must also recognize that they do not have the same hangovers that we have. Some of us are still holding on to grievances that occurred more than 30 years ago. Holding on to those hangovers is a deterrence to progress. Whilst it is to the benefit for all to get over them and move forward, however some have resolved they need time to nurse them, and whilst they are doing so I must propose that we let the young people take over. Time is not our side and has never been.
- We must willingly relinquish our grip; otherwise the young will take their rightful position by force. Now is the time to let go and them let them be. It is to the benefit of all that we approach this collaboratively, otherwise we will see yet another division, i.e. the young from the old. This will be seriously detrimental to the development and progress of Mthwakazi. I am asking us to let go and let them be.
- Our young people have observed how we have handled matters in the past. They have observed the decisions we have made when confronted with various challenges. This has given them the opportunity to identify our strengths and weaknesses and they have respectively stood on the sidelines waiting for us to ask for their input and feedback and we have not been daring to do so. I ask that we dare give them a chance to give us their feedback and we will be surprised to hear their perspective.
- The time has now come for us to swallow our pride and let them speak their minds. Now is the time for us to give them a chance to use the various skills they have not for our personal agenda, but for Mthwakazi’s agenda at large.
I have personally decided to put myself in the position to hear their view points and to empower them whenever I can. I must point out that not all our Youth have the level of dedication that we need in order to take us to the next level. Many are still distracted. Many are still afraid and intimidated. Many are still short-sighted in that there are looking for gratification in the wrong places and long-term solutions are far-fetched and foreign to them. Many are paralyzed due to lack of resources. However there are those who are single minded and have the agenda of Mthwakazi at heart. They are not afraid and realize the risks associated with their level of dedication. It is to these young people that I ask we pay close attention to. It is to these young people that I ask we give a platform to speak. Who will join me in this effort? Who will join me in giving them a chance? Who will take a chance per adventure we hear fresh ideas from them that we have not in our lifetime ever heard or envisaged.
I ask for Mthwakazi Youth to rise up. I ask you not to despise your youthfulness. Do not undermine your vigor and energy. Do not succumb to ridicule nor to oppressive comments or conjecture. I ask Mthwakazi Youth to rise up and not be intimidated by adults who are not forward thinking. I ask Mthwakazi youth to rise up and join hands and lead us to the next level. The future of Mthwakazi depends on you. You are the answer we have been looking for. Now is the time for you to take ownership. Now is the time for you to accept the challenges that we face as challenges whose solutions you must come up with. We need fresh new ideas from you and we are willing to listen.
That is the bottom line.