Waiguru: Millions of youth to vote on August 8th polls
Millions of youth will be taking part in this year’s General Election for the first time in their lives. Indeed, a high turnout by the youth will make or break careers of many politicians.
Unlike the older generation, which is wont to vote along ethnic lines, youthful voters will be more attracted by the policies that the candidates have been selling rather than where they come from.
Statistics have shown that 51 per cent of the 19.6 million registered voters fall in the 18-35 age bracket.
And there is no doubt that in the last four years, the Jubilee administration has made deliberate efforts to address issues that are closer to the hearts of the youth and hence President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election chances have greatly been enhanced.
As the President has previously stated, Kenya’s future is in the hands of the youth.
“For as long as they remain proudly patriotic, for as long as they stay the course of citizenship – they will ensure that no one ever steals Kenya’s future,” he told National Youth Service (NYS) graduands last year.
While there have been challenges, the NYS remains a key pillar of Jubilee’s efforts to address challenges facing young people such as unemployment.
The slum infrastructural improvement project targeting the youth in Nairobi has ensured that the living standards of those living in the poor neighborhoods are not only improved but that the cohorts are able to earn a living and save money to guarantee a better future.
In Kibera, with the daily wage of Sh471 that the youth earn every day, they save 30% of their daily wages in SACCOs for the period of time they are contracted to execute development projects
This has, in turn, improved security as the youth have no motivation to engage in crime.Instances of drug and alcohol abuse have also come down.
The sprawling Kibera slums, which never enjoyed any meaningful development for the 20 years that Nasa presidential candidate Raila Odinga served as area MP, now boasts of tarmacked roads, mobile clinics, police posts made from shipping containers, working street lights and in some areas, even free Wifi.
The flying toilets phenomenon that was Kibera’s second name is no more as the youths man clean toilets where they charge users Sh10.
Youths who previously eked a living by taking up menial jobs in industrial area or at construction sites now operate meaningful businesses thanks to the skills gained and savings made from the NYS project.
Through the Self Employment Programme Unit (SEPU), the youth have also been able to access start-up loans enabling them to engage in income generating activities.
While previous efforts to address youth unemployment and poor living conditions in slums have failed to bear much fruit, the slum upgrading programme under the Jubilee government has been a resounding success.
Apart from empowering the youth, the NYS project has also ensured promotion of national unity since all Kenyan youth irrespective of age, gender, religious convictions, political affiliation or professional station have benefited.
When he visited Nyalenda slums in Kisumu in April 2015, the President received a rousing welcome because the people appreciated his efforts to develop all parts of the country, including those that did not vote for him in the last General Election.
When he returned in June of that year for the Catholic Archdiocese of Kisumu Silver Jubilee celebrations, youth working in the NYS Youth Empowerment and Slum Upgrading Project at Obunga Informal Settlement lined up the road from the airport to thank him as plead for its extension.
That is a clear indication that the government was right not to discriminate any part of the country as all the country’s youth face similar challenges.
Going forward, President Uhuru has promised to create 6.5 million jobs in the next five years translating to 1.5 million jobs per year.
In the last election, Jubilee’s target was to create one million jobs per year. It was able to create an average of 800,000 jobs per year.
As President Uhuru said in his recent live chat on Facebook, the 1.5 million jobs target is easily achievable given the progress made in laying the right foundation through, among others, heavy investments in infrastructural development.
What is clear, however, that NYS will continue to play an immense role in job creation especially by imparting the necessary skills, addressing societal challenges and promoting patriotism among the youth.
By Ben Ngetich