Described as “young, barefoot and fiercely competitive”, athletes have put Kenya on the global map: Isabella Bosibori became a silver medallist in France in 1997 at age 17; Pamela Jelimo scooped gold at 18; and Asbel Kiprop won a gold medal at 19!
We have countless young innovators (exemplified by Kevin Macharia named by Forbes magazine one of the top 30 young entrepreneurs in Africa in 2015; Evans Wandogo of the Solar LED lanterns) and young entrepreneurs like Joel Mwale who founded Skydrop Enterprises at 16; Cosmas Ochieng, founder of Ecofuels; and Trishar Khetia, founder of Tria group and Khetia’s chain stalls.
In music and arts, we have examples of Ida Nguma, crowned Ms World Kenya at 22; the Moipei Sisters, not forgetting Henry Ohanga.
In the world of formal employment, young exceptional Kenyans are flying really high: Tessy Cherono is the first African Diversity Officer for the Executive Committee at the University of Manchester in England, serving over 40,000 students on campus; and 23 year-old go-getter, Esther Kinuthia, working with Google Ireland as Associate Account Strategist are examples.
We even have young peace makers like Duncan Ochieng’ from Oyugis and Chris Wandera from Dagoretti. But this is not the entire story of young people in Kenya.
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The Kenya Youth Survey report suggest that 47 per cent of all Kenyan youth admire people who have made money by ‘hook or crook’; 50 per cent would have no problem evading taxes or paying a bribe as long as they are not jailed and about 50 per cent say that it doesn’t matter how one makes money.
The ink on The Kenya Youth Survey Report had barely dried before Well Told Story, released another report on May 18, 2016.
The study is dubbed #SexMoneyFun because as it suggests, for 14-24 year old Kenyans, these three are so intricately interrelated, “that they deserve to be connected not just into a single concept, but into a single word. And not just any word but a digitally interactive hashtag word at that #SexMoneyFun.”
According to #SexMoneyFun, 65 percent of Kenyan youth consider it okay to have a ‘sponsor’ even when in a relationship and 33 percent indicate they do have a ‘sponsor’. “Sponsor” is colloquialism for sugar mummies and daddies.
HIV statistics indicate prevalence is not only highest among young people but also among married people, thanks to ‘sponsors’ and their mpango wa kando. In their thirst for #SexMoneyFun, young people engage in violent crime, murder included.
Print and electronic media report almost on daily basis of hard-core teenage criminals drag netted or shot dead by the police or lynched by mobs. Data from the Kenya prison department suggest that over 50 percent of convicted prisoners are below 25 years.
Closely related to this is drug abuse and the continuing radicalisation of youths and their subsequent recruitment into terrorist gangs. This two-sided picture of Kenyan youth indicates the competing forces of good and evil. More importantly, they imply these forces may be successfully manipulated toward good.
We concur with Sir John Templeton, a renowned philanthropist, that human beings have the power to master their character through self-control and courage; “When you rule your mind, you rule your world”.
The sustainable solution to youth challenges in Kenya lies in a proactive, long-term, holistic response.
A national initiation rite, flexible enough to accommodate our diverse cultures, religions, and localities would be a great investment and foundation for Kenya to sustainably lay its social and economic development.