Opinion: Youth must shun dependency and initiate projects

President Uhuru Kenyatta inspects a parade mounted by the National Youth Service Recruits during their passing
Once again, the national story is a scandal of stolen money. This time there is a welcome difference: action is being taken.

This is not to add to the clamour of (plastic) armchair criticism and complaint against the National Youth Service (NYS). Rather, it is to talk about the impact on young people who were destined to benefit from that rebalancing of wealth. And how they should respond.

Inescapably, the starting point is the shattered hope. When the NYS was restructured in 2013, there was money allocated for slum upgrading and reconstruction that was supposed to give ghetto youth some income. Together with a system for the youth to save up their earnings and learn an investment mindset, it looked like a real win-win.

Unfortunately, that stream of income was cut short after reports of corruption emerged. Add to that further disappointment when the small savings made by the workers evaporated and you would think I am here to voice bitter outrage. The message for me and youth is really much more important. Here are four lessons we must learn about what and who we should rely on for real change.

First and foremost, we the youth need to stop buying into the culture of searching for the easy option.

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This mindset is a viral epidemic in our ghettos and amongst too many it takes over and becomes the root of many vices, from petty theft to violence. Some need to understand that there is no easy way to paradise through following false religious ideologies.

And others, that there is no quick way to happiness by wielding a home-made pistol and seeking to harvest what they did not sow. Guys need a wage, but perhaps many youths expected quick cash will solve everything. But I am not sure if enough thought was put into investing in the long term, which is odd when you think of the youth as the next generation of Kenya.

Second, we need to improve our sense of self-reliance. Getting up on our own feet, learning a skill, making real plans, being entrepreneurial – these are the steps youth should take to realising themselves. No matter how small the start, we can take advantage of the many resources available to us to gradually build ourselves economically and socially. The heart of self-reliance is critically and deliberately thinking through our own decisions. Listening to others but not handing over control to them.

Third, we need to understand that empowerment is from within. I’ve seen young guys transform when they realise that. Question habits and what might be the norm amongst your friends and change naturally follows, often in ways that are unexpected. Of course, we should dream but that’s different to being trapped in a fantasy world. If we spend all our time gazing up at the blue sky dreaming for help tomorrow, we can lose our footing taking our small steps forward today.

Fourth, we should agree that charity begins at home. So, while caring for ourselves we need to look after our nearest and dearest. It is important for the youth to learn how to give as well as to take. And giving does not have to be material.

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An advice and a listening ear can be a gift that can change a person’s life. Be your sister’s and brother’s keeper and your growth will be a sustainable one too. Build a purpose from your small successes and persevere in trying to make a difference. This is the best way we can change ourselves and our neighbourhoods. Transformation from the heart grows outwards. We do not have to rely on policies and political speeches to bring about change.

Dependency in any form is bad, be it be on a drug, a person or handouts. True development and progress must be self-initiated. So, this week the courts are doing their thing and that is their business. But, from what I know, the hustle is most real on this side of town and maybe it is about time we started working on our problems first and stop waiting for a “project” to come and rescue us.