The terms youth, adolescence and young people have been defined in different ways by different scholars and groups. This paper will use the definition used by the World Bank and United Nations that refer to youth as persons between age of 15 and 24 years (World Bank Group, 2011). Thus, youth is a period of life between childhood and adulthood.
The youth contribute a large portion of the global population; currently, more than 1.5 billion people are youths in a world, who are faced by many challenges and changes including globalization, information and communication technologies, AIDS pandemic, global warming, poverty and other issues that have significantly altered the world system (UNFPA, 2011). Youths are very active group of people who are able to use available social and communication avenues to share information, ideas, music, popular culture and participate in various activities they deem important to them. Through these avenues, the youth are able to link and organize themselves to advance different course thus the youth play important role as catalyst for global changes in social, economic and political dimensions. As the youth are navigating through the adolescence, they undergo many life changing transitions in terms of their body structure, psychological, social and economical aspects. In this period of transition, the youth are faced with many challenges and it is the period when they should make very important life changing choices, which are mainly shaped by the community and family expectations.
For the youth to transition well, they need a lot support from the communities, government, and families in order to adequately address and solve their issues. The young people have different experiences as they transition to adulthood due to diverse factors such as age, sex, marital status, schooling levels, residence, living arrangements, migration, and socio- economic status, thus by focusing on these areas of youth life the young people can get better opportunities and overcome challenges with positive results (UNFPA, 2011).
Young people, challenges and efforts to tackle them
For the youth, the major challenge to their situation is due to the facts that adolescence is ‘a time of unprecedented curiosity about life and the decoding of its inner workings” (Breinbauer & Maddaleno, 2005). In addition, Breinbauer & Maddaleno (2005) claim that “this curiosity is a product of boundless energy and a nascent sense of independence and power as the prospects of becoming a full fledged adult draws nearer.” Due to this understanding, there has been global partnering between world bodies, institutions, and communities to ensure that the issues of the youth are addressed globally in the following five key segments. They include “empowering the youth with skills to achieve their dreams, think critically, and express themselves freely; promoting health, including giving them access to sexual and reproductive health information, education, commodities and services; connect young people to livelihood and employment programmes; uphold the rights of young people, especially girls and marginalized groups, to grow up healthy and safe to receive a fair share of social investments” (UNFPA, 2011). In tackling the youth issues, support is needed right from the family level to community level and then to societal level at large.
With continued efforts and support the currents youths will spend more time in school, delay engaging in marriage and will focus more on utilizing their potentials to gain opportunities and solve their issues. In our society today, youth are faced by many issues including education, poverty, drug abuse, sexuality, crime, violence, unemployment, in adequate health systems, and psychological and social conditions such as identity crisis, sense of hopelessness, lack of self-confidence and low self-esteem and the negative impact of the digital technology. There fore issues affecting the youth are very many and diverse thus there should be global focus to them especially through studies.
The study of the youth is among the rapidly growing area of research in different fields including sociology, anthropology, social work, psychology, women’s studies, ethic studies, education, history, and cultural studies, leading to an emerging set of methodological concerns specific to the study of this diverse group (Best 5). In this paper, I will further discuss education and unemployment in relation to the youth as some of the major issues affecting the youth today.
Youth and education
Education is very vital in preparing the youth for future roles as adults. Generally, most of the education received in individuals life occurs mostly during childhood and adolescence that in offering education these target age groups should be well addressed to enhance the quality of education they receive. Young people in the developing countries are spending most on their adolescence life in school than in previous times, with around three-quarter of 10-14 year- olds attending school. The survey data of 2000 representing “60 percent of the population of the developing world shows that the mean number of grades of school completed has risen over the past two decades, from 6.0 to 7.
4 for young men ages 20 to 24, and from 3.8 to 6.0 for young women ages 20 to 24” (UNECA, 2). This represents a significant improvement in the portion of global population accessing education. Education is a very essential ingredient in socio-economic and political transformation of countries and societies. Youth are playing a key in enhancing and participating in these changes aimed at alleviating poverty, illiteracy, and furthering developments.
Apart from education, empowering the youth through knowledge and economic gains education offers remedy to many challenges facing the youth in the society. For example, secondary schooling can enhance the reproductive health of young men and women; both male and female students who remain enrolled during their teens are substantially less likely to have had sex and their levels of contraceptive use tend to be higher than those of than their unmarried non-enrolled peers (UNECA, 4). Other benefits accrued through adolescence education include possible future academic advancement, delayed marriage, and parenthood, possibility of developing into more positive and enlightened adult are more, and tackling of future responsibility as an adult is enhanced.
To enable the youth to live better, active and fulfilling lives all stakeholders in the society should work closely to ensure the youth can access universal quality primary and secondary education, and are more empowered on sex education and other basic health measures. Despite the benefits the youth can reap from education, there are several challenges to youth education that hinder some youth’s progress in education. These include, first, most of war affected youth or internally displaced youth are not in school and have limited realistic opportunity of ever attending. For example, in the southern Sudan during the late civil war years, only 0.
7 percent of school age children in one of the war torn county were in school and 0.3 percent of the school- age children completed all eights years of primary school (Sommers, 30). Secondly, antisocial behavior can be challenges to youth education, for example in the United States by 2001 between four and six million children and youth in schools had been identified as antisocial. Thus, at serious risk of negative outcomes, such as school dropout, vocational maladjustment, drug and alcohol abuse, relationship problems, higher hospitalization and mortality rates, if not curbed earlier the behavior can progress to increase risk for police contacts and arrest, all of which would negatively impact of the youths education (CECP, Para. 7). Thirdly, adolescence is transition period in life in which people are undergoing transformation, thus, for the young people due to changes taking place in their body and preparations for the next stage in life the adolescents may experience the following problems in school, which may affect the educational performance and general behavior pattern. First, there is problem of self-understanding (emotionally, socially, physically, and intellectually).
The secondly problem is developing new ways of relating to others. The third problem involves teacher- student relationships; and lastly, the problem of the teaching- learning situation. With these problems affecting the young people, their academic prospects are affected but proper school management can help reduce these problems and also offer more care to adolescents who are more affected (Muessig, 7). Additionally, youth education is faced by the global challenges to education at large such as lack of adequate funding, and lack of proper educational policies implementation. Lastly, adolescents are more susceptible to peer-pressure, which can influence them negatively to engage in early and unsafe sex, drug and substances abuse, violence, crimes, alcoholism and engaging in bad internet practices such pornography, gaming, and cyber frauds, which can adversely affect their education.
Youth and unemployment
Global issue of unemployment is one of the major challenges facing the current world due to the long-term negative impacts it imposes on the people and economies at large. With the youth constituting more than 1.5 billion of the world population, the youth contribute a large portion to the global unemployed population. According to the World youth report, 2003 “160 million people in the world are unemployed, with almost 40 percent of those without work are young people, and the levels of unemployment tend to be two to three times higher for this group than for the adult population; with most of employed young people being in low paying jobs with few protections and are unable to provide themselves with adequate means to ensure their survival” (Anon, 55). This situation clearly indicates that there are huge disparities between the number of young workers available in the market and the global need for their services. This situation is further worsened by the fact that, developed nations are preferring flexibility of labor and relying more on non-permanent agreements that are seen to erode job security.
However, the developing nations are flooded with youth working in informal sector where earnings are significantly low, and they are prone to exploitation, as they do not have sound bargaining power (World Youth Report, Para. 2). The expected future leaders of our society, families, organizations, and governments are suffering from limited employment opportunities and they are being discriminated against based on age, gender, sex and socioeconomic background in finding jobs in the current labour markets (DCOMM, Para. 10). The problem of unemployment exposes the young people to more problems including: first, unemployment is very stressful event that makes people unhappy and increases the fear of the uncertain future hence lowering self-confidence and self- esteem (Winkelmann & Winkelmann, 1). Secondly, unemployment increases susceptibility to malnutrition, illness, mental stress, depression, with the psychological imprint of joblessness being long-term and can affect the health outcomes of the workers (Linn, Sandifer, and Stein, 502).
Thirdly, if unemployment is prolonged it would reduce further future chances of being employed for the young people. Additionally, there is strong correlation between increase youth unemployment and increase in crimes rates especially properties crimes, burglaries, thefts and drug abuse and drug offences (Thornberry and Christensen, 609). Lastly, massive youth unemployment impacts negatively on the socioeconomic development hence the decline in economic growth largely because youth unemployment is a social menace, breeding vulnerability and feelings of exclusion and worthlessness. This may lead to “personally and socially destructive” activities; therefore, unless the potential of young people is used in a productive way, both the economies and the youth face a dull future (DCOMM, 2004). With these developments, a huge portion of the youth population is being lost in jobless calling for global efforts towards combating this menace. In addition, the issues of the youth being disadvantaged against the older workers in the labour markets should be addressed urgently globally to streamline and cater for the future labour demands.
The burden of tackling the youth issues should be well shared among all the stakeholders from the parents, communities, governments, international bodies such as ILO, United Nation, World Bank, IMF and the society forming a synergy that can address the youth issues in a more focused unitary approach with an aim of reducing any negative impacts and empowering the youth.
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