Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) is excited to join the rest of the world to commemorate the Youth Day. Youths make up the largest population in our country and the world at large. As evidenced from the 2013/2014 Zambia Demographic Survey published by the Central Statistical Office, over 50 percent of the population is aged 15 and below. Furthermore, the 2020 United Nations (UN) Department of Economic and Social Affairs indicates that Zambia’s youth population make up over 70% of the population and the age median is at 17 years. This therefore, indicates that Zambia’s population is predominately youth. This justifies the need for our national priorities to be youth centered.
This year’s theme is “I take the lead”. Indeed the youth need to be prepared for leadership positions as they are the future of this country. Additionally, young and fresh minds need to take up the political, social, cultural and economic space of leadership in our nation if we are to attain the much anticipated development.
For our youths to lead, attainment of quality education is very important and cannot be done away with. The youth need to be well equipped with the relevant education to ensure their critical contribution to the national development agenda. More important, lifelong learning in the form of skills development and the use of technology will ensure that youths thrive especially in the face of formal unemployment. Educated youths are also able to understand and analytical issues thus are able to effectively participate and promote transparency and accountability in any nation. It is therefore important that tertiary education and skills development is made affordable for most our youth.
ZANEC is sad to note the high number of youths that are out of school in the country. The number is almost 800, 000 and this is unacceptable for a country that hopes to achieve any form of national development. Worse still, even those that have attained an education lack employment or self-employment opportunities because of the restrictive environment. Zambia, being a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals, especially SDG number 4 that promotes equality education for everyone and lifelong learning should take this issue as a priority. Therefore, education has to be made a priority for Zambia to achieve the vision 2030 and the Seventh National Development Plan, whose theme is “leaving no-one behind”. It is disheartening that in spite of all our national and international commitments, the allocation to the education and skills sector continues to dwindle every year. Zambia needs to be seen to be responsive to its commitments and increasing its budgetary share and size to the sector is a first step to doing this. We take this opportunity to appeal to our government through the Ministry of Finance to allocate at least 20% of the national budget to the Education and Skills Sector for this theme of youths taking the lead to become a reality.
Furthermore, there is a saying that an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, it therefore becomes vital to keep our youths busy with productive activities. It is very disappointing to see our young people waste their precious energy and valuable time on illicit activities such as alcohol abuse and violent behaviours.
ZANEC would like to wish all a fruitful Youth Day Commemoration.