Greatest resource – The Nation

  • Nigeria must adequately cater for its youths for a brighter tomorrow

The United Nations pegs the youth age at between 15 – 24 years. However, because this is done without prejudice to any country’s benchmark, Nigeria pegs her own youth age at between 18-35 years. Invariably, if well prepared with good education, health and other developmental variables, the youth of any nation is the most productive sector of its population. In essence, the children of any country hold the ace to its future.

It is in complete realisation of this that the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, William Symington, reminded Nigerians that the greatest resource of the country is its youths and not petroleum. He made the statement on his visit to Adekunle Anglican Primary School in Makoko,  a sweltering suburb of Lagos famous for its slum. A huge percentage of Makoko rests on stilts above the Lagos Lagoon. Until recently, the children and youth of  Makoko community have suffered huge education deficit. Some private sector and non-governmental organisations have been pulling resources together to improve education in the area but there is still room for improvement.

The ambassador challenged the Nigerian government saying, “If you have oil and you don’t have people, you have nothing, the reason the world cares about Nigeria is because of the youths of the country”. This is very instructive and must be taken very seriously by all tiers of government, given that the education sector is handled by the different tiers of government. He pointed out the potential in any well-educated youth, the endless possibilities in all human sectors.

For a country that consistently fails to meet the UN education budget benchmark of 26%, the ambassador in choosing to go to a school in Makoko must be taken very seriously. The paltry allocation of about less than 10 percent to the education sector is enough proof that successive governments have not given youth development the requisite attention needed to prepare the most productive segment of the population.

The negligence shown towards youth development is boldly announced by the scandalous 13.2 million out of school children that has earned Nigeria the country with the greatest number of out-of-school children globally. The fact that there is a growing number of acutely malnourished, dying and retarded children across the country is an ill wind that blows no one any good. What it shows is that in the nearest future, those children who ought to step into the youth segment would either be dead, retarded mentally or physically and therefore unable to grow and fulfill their potential.

If the tiers of governments in Nigeria had feigned ignorance of what is truly important to the future of the country, the ambassador’s advice and that of Bill Gates who had in an earlier visit lamented the lack of adequate investment in health and education as very detrimental to the human capital development of the country must be a wake-up call.

The undue attention to the oil sector by successive governments must shift to the development of the youth population in ways that would equip them for the challenges of the 21st century that is ruled by ideas. The lack of clear youth development and implementable plans as evident in the dysfunctional system where children are malnourished, dying, mentally and physically retarded, uneducated or half educated, unemployed or even total illiterates cannot augur well for the future of the country.

If the future of a country is in its youths, then it logically follows that Nigeria must deliberately plan to equip its teeming youths with the basics in nutrition, health, functional education and the requisite infrastructure for optimal productivity and national growth. The northern part of the country in particular must realise that the socio-cultural excuse for almajiri system, IDP negligence, child brides, excessive population growth and provision of commercial motorcycles with the attendant risks, poverty and illiteracy are tools detrimental to growth. The South must discourage child-labour, high school drop-out, and invest more in education and health for future growth. Nigeria must invest in its youths for sustainability and development. Petroleum can finish or be out of use but not so for human capital.

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