Who can solve the youth jobs crisis? – an interactive

When we hear about youth unemployment, the words ‘global’ and ‘crisis’ are usually not far behind. But has the state of youth joblessness been exaggerated? What is really driving it and how do you get young people into employment? And whose job is it to care?

African youth fight poverty through education

African youth fight poverty through education

By: Jared Knoll

“I believe that this young, brave and educated generation can make change in society and make the world a better place,” says Tanzanian Eric Lucas, 17.

ARUSHA – We know traditional methods of aid-based development don’t work. We know we can’t throw money at problems in developing and conflict-affected countries, or go in and lecture to communities how the future ought to look, and expect socioeconomic improvement.  We know we need to work toward building capacities.

The School of St. Jude, a small charity-run institution in the small Tanzanian suburb of Moshono, has been working for thirteen years to demonstrate this fact, and Lucas is one of the young men and women whose inspiring lives serve as evidence.

THE FOUNDER & CEO

THE FOUNDER & CEO AFRICAMOJA YOUTH SOCIETY

Last year he founded the Africamoja Youth Society, a youth-led organization that works to empower kids throughout East Africa and beyond to pursue education opportunities and become active in their communities to effect positive change. With nearly one hundred members including eighty-six in Arusha, their  motto is “with youth we can change the world”.

“I see some of the benefits we have already achieved. I’ve got a lot of youth and they have also realized themselves that they can make changes,” Lucas says.

“The youth have also come to a solution where they can think positively about their lives, toward their family, toward their country, and the activities they can do to help their society to solve health problems and education problems.”

Lucas is just one of many inspiring success stories to come out of St. Jude’s. Established in 2002, they painstakingly select the most deeply impoverished kids from the local community who demonstrate a strong will and aptitude to learn, and have strongly committed families who can support their children to make the best of the opportunities the school offers.

It all started with a young Australian idealist named Gemma Sisia, who set out for Uganda after she finished university to teach at a private school. She says it was a wonderful and transformative experience, but she was frustrated by its exclusivity.

“When you’re young and you’re under twenty-five you think you’re infallible and you know it all, and everything is going to be alright,” Sisia says.

“I thought, why wasn’t there a good quality private school that’s free of charge? Why do you always have to have a lot of money to send your kids there?”

She married a Tanzanian, whose father, the village elder, suggested she bring her skills as an educator to bear in their local community of Moshono. He offered her several acres of land to get started, and she began fundraising back home to start buying bricks.

She started the school with just one volunteer to help teach, and a big obstacle – how to choose which kids to give the gift of education, with extremely limited resources.

“When I first got here I, like most people, got off the plane and just wanted to help poor peoples. Then you go, croiky, everyone looks poor…  we have a duty to our sponsors and donors that we use the precious donations that they send to us in the best way possible, and in the most efficient and fair way possible,” says Sisia.

“They have to be poor, but they have to actually want an education”.

Over the months and years she developed a rigorous process to evaluate not just potential students, but also their families. They do random checks of family homes throughout the school year to ensure that not only the kids learning at St. Jude’s are maintaining academic commitment, but that their families are as well.

Eric Lucas attributes every one of his achievements and the entirety of his future potential to the life skills he learned at St. Jude’s, where he enrolled at age seven.

“If I hadn’t gone to St. Jude’s I think my life would be mess. I would not be here, I would not be speaking to you today. St. Jude’s has helped me a lot with my personal issues, my community issues, my family issues. St. Jude’s has prepared me to stand, and I think in the future it will prepare many Tanzanians who will bring changes.”

He’ll graduate to tertiary education in two years, and is excited to go to university to study accounting. No matter what he does in the future, he plans to continue developing Africa Moja and improving the lives of his fellow Tanzanian youth.

Since the School of St. Jude began they’ve educated 1,676 students, sixty-one of which will be part of St. Jude’s first graduating class next year, a major milestone for Gemma.

The youngest kids at St. Jude’s show as much excitement and hope for the future as those about to graduate – they understand what a great opportunity they’ve been given, and the responsibilities that come with it in a country where everyone supports their family as much as they support themselves.

“Thank you very much. Our life, for sure is very difficult. But now when we grow up we will become someone, and we will help our families,” says Magreth Joshua, an eleven year-old student.

“I would not have been able to get an education without St. Jude’s,” says Joshua Blasio, an eight-year old boy at St. Jude’s.

They both say they want to become engineers after they complete their education at St. Jude’s, and beam optimism.

The motto at the School of St. Jude is “Fighting Poverty Through Education”. If young rising stars of community activism like Eric Lucas are any indication, it’s a winning battle.

Information for Affected Youth

In addition to providing prevention services directed at youth and clinical services for youth who are involved with drugs, IMPACT also provides services to youth in the Abbotsford and Mission communities who feel they are being negatively affected by the drug use of other people in their lives, whether that be family members or friends.

When people have problems related to their drug use, those problems are not often confined solely to the person who is taking the drugs. These problems affect everyone who cares for or depends upon the drug user. These problems can affect safety, security, housing, food, physical health and, perhaps most importantly, mental health.

Often an affected youth may not understand why and how the people in their lives became addicted and how that addiction may continue or progress. They may therefore put great pressures on themselves to help, protect and even cure their addicted family members or friends.

Some youth may even think that they are causing the addicts in their lives to use drugs. This belief can sometimes be reinforced when addicts, trying to understand or justify their addictions themselves, blame or place responsibility for their drug use on the people around them. This is a huge, even impossible, burden for anyone to carry – let alone a youth.

Often affected youth can benefit from support as much or even more than the people who are using drugs around them. And, by seeking help for themselves, they can support the drug using people in their lives by showing them the benefits that can come from seeking qualified outside help.

Information for Affected Youth

 

Drug Use in Friends

Most youth in the Abbotsford and Mission communities will end up having at least one friend who becomes involved with drugs.

The drug use may never rise to the level of causing significant problems. Many people just experiment with drugs or use them socially or recreationally, and their drug use never creates problems of great importance.

But when problems do start to happen, they can sometimes grow from a ripple to a tidal wave seemingly overnight. If this happens in the life of one of your friends, you may wonder what you can do or how you can help. If your friends start doing drugs, you could also feel yourself being drawn into it.

Rarely does “peer pressure” happen in the way that people tend to imagine it – with a friend or peer directly and forcefully trying to pressure you into taking that first drink or first toke of pot, when you really don’t want to.

But “peer influence” can definitely be real. If the friends you grew up with start playing cards, chances are you’ll start playing cards too. The same can go for alcohol and other drugs.

Plenty of youth come to IMPACT after a marijuana-related school suspension or other difficulty. They may see the dangers of continued drug use and want to stop or at least slow down – but all their friends smoke pot regularly. They’ve grown up together, have a shared history together. It can be a difficult situation.

If a youth continues to hang out with the same people, do they risk continued or increasing drug use or continued entanglement in needless problems and drama? Is there a way to counteract this “peer influence” effect?  How can youth build new social lives and supports, if that seems to the youth to be the right thing to do?

At IMPACT we help youth identify their own life goals, obstacles that they might see as standing in their way, and strengths that they already have that might help them make progress, starting from wherever they currently are.