Challenges facing the Nigerian youth

Challenges facing the Nigerian youth in a globalisied world

Globalisation is a new historical reality that is propelled by knowledge and technological advancement. The rapid expansion of markets across national boundaries and the socio-political effects it brings, has grave implications for developing countries including Nigeria. There is consensus that less developed and technologically disadvantaged countries shall be unable to take advantage of the increased opportunities that globalisation provides and are to be increasingly powerless and marginalised. (Bolton, 2007; Anao, 2002).

Evidently, successful integration into the global economy shall be a tall order for Nigeria, considering the perceived challenges that confront majority of Nigeria’s overwhelming youth population. These include:

Restricted access to functional and qualitative education

Despite enormous progress made in educational outcomes, there are still many young people who lack basic skills needed to support their post-school life. Though high enrolment are reported in many States under the UBE scheme, early dropouts, grade repetition and poor education quality mean that many enter adolescence poorly prepared and ill-equipped for work and life.

According to the National Bureau of Statistics (2006) 33% of persons aged 15 years and above could not read or write in any language. Higher literacy rate (79.6%) was recorded for urban areas. The primary school completion rate at the national level is dismal. Only 47% of children had access to secondary school (69.3%, urban and 37.5%, rural); The South West reported highest figure of 69.4%, followed by South-South (48%) and South East recording the lowest (32.3%). As many as 43.4% expressed dissatisfaction with their secondary education. The level of satisfaction was highest in South West (74.8%) and lowest in North East (42.1%).

Furthermore, there are proven significant shortfalls in available educational infrastructure to provide access to a functional and qualitative [VOCATION-ORIENTED] education for all Nigeria children and youths if the Millennium Development Goals are to be met.

Worse still, the curriculum content and delivery of our school system are hardly consistent with post-school employment requirements. Currently, the consequences of our failure to effectively implement the 6-3-3-4 education system are stirring us at the face. ICT penetration has been insignificant for the majority of children and youths, except for the rich.

Grossly limited access to employment

Succinctly put, transition from school to work remains a major challenge, such that many young persons end up either unemployed or underemployed in the informal sector with little or no protection and prospects (UNECA, 2006). Currently, the expansion of employment opportunities is far below the growth in the youth population, partly because of lack of commensurate investments and appropriate technologies.

Prolonged dependence on imported goods, ranging from tooth picks to tissue papers, polished rice to house hold furniture, paints, cars, textiles and second hand wears etc in preference to anything “Made in Nigeria” goods, has tacitly undermined genuine attempts to boost local production efforts.

Locally manufactured goods are perceived as substandard, fake, imitation, corrupted and unreliable. Nigeria’s 140 million population has in stead provided ready market and supported the economy and labour force of other countries. Cheap and substandard goods “from abroad” have for long been dumped on gullible Nigerians; all depleting the forex needs of the nation and displacing local workforce. India, South Korea, Singapore and Malaysia are worthy examples of economies that have developed from within. Nigeria must chat its course in a determined and aggressive manner if she must assert its identity and survive.

Lack of access to business support funds and migration

Aggravated by lack of economic opportunities like soft loans or grants to start businesses, most ill-prepared youths migrate to urban areas or to other countries at great risk, even untimely death, to seek often elusive greener pastures. Dashed hopes easily propel most vulnerable ones to crime, prostitution, drugs, robberies, cult-related activities, militancy etc.

Lack of access to reliable health support

As in most developing countries, youths in Nigeria are vulnerable to debilitating diseases and various health problems associated with inadequate national healthcare services, poverty and promiscuity. The high incidence of HIV/AIDs among Nigerian youth is a matter of national concern. This poses one of the greatest challenges to sustainable development..

Over-dependence on oil

According to the United Nations Security Council’s Global Policy Forum, “Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa, is also one of the best endowed in terms of natural resources. Yet, it is one of the poorest countries in the world. As is the case with many oil-rich developing countries, oil reserves have proved a mixed blessing for Nigeria. Since 1974, only 14 years after independence, oil production for export has been by far the main source of revenue for the government. (Either by choice or default) ... The oil industry has expanded in Nigeria at the expense of other previously important production sectors, such as agriculture and manufacturing. This has created regional imbalances and an increasingly unequal distribution of wealth between different sectors of society, deepening the potential for conflict in this complex multi-ethnic nation. “

Report from Essential Action & Global Exchange - "Oil for Nothing: Multinational Corps, Environmental Destruction, Death &: Impunity in the Niger Delta".

This persistent trend has accounted largely for Nigeria’s woes and has justifiably agitated the citizenry, particularly its teaming youth population. The implication has been overdependence on expatriates who dominate and man the industry to the detriment of nationals. A holistic response, backed with the requisite political will is urgently required to return the country to the part of rectitude.

Over exposure to negative western cultures

Aided by the proliferation of information technology through cable networks, the internet, advanced mobile communication facilities, the world has indeed become a global village. The negative consequences however is that most Nigerian youths who are not productively engaged are hooked on to strange western cultures emulated through these media that alienate them further from their traditional roots. Drug use and abuse, violence, promiscuity, access to ammunitions, gangsterism etc, are known to be negative behaviours that are learnt and made lifestyles through these channels.

Distanced from cherished cultural values

The well acknowledged decay of time tested and highly regarded traditional value systems are pointers to the generational gap created in contemporary Nigeria to the detriment of its youth, who will emerge as the custodians of our respective cultures and leaders of tomorrow. This gap erodes the identity and rich cultural heritage that has remained a source of our national pride among the comity of nations. Embedded in this heritage is the culture of duty, hard work, social and civic responsibility, sense of dignity in labour, productivity, honesty, transparency, respect for elders and the status quo.

Over exposure to the culture of greed and corruption

Today’s youth are the real victims of Nigeria’s resource-curse dilemma. They were born and raised during the darkest era of Nigeria’s economic history, characterised by greed, misrule, recklessness in the management of national resources, deprivation marginalisation in the name of QUOTA SYSTEM and unbridled poverty in the midst of plenty. They were indeed born into a culture of institutionalised corruption in every facet of the national life and were psychologically sedated to imbibe the lifestyle of greed, selfishness, fraud, examination malpractice, a get-rich-quick-at-all-cost mentality, disrespect for law and order. These are Nigeria’s endangered youth population, to who Nigeria must restitute to secure its future.

Ethnicity and lack of National consciousness

Our multi-ethnicity has been one of our greatest assets as a nation. It has also been our greatest challenge in the process of nation building. There is a low national consciousness and loyalty. Nigerians often refer to themselves, first as Northerners, Southerners, Yoruba, Igbo, Hausa, Ijaw, and Efik, before seeing themselves as Nigerians. To them, being Nigerian is secondary. This can not be said of the American or even the Ghanaian. This speaks volumes and will remain a major challenge to the enterprising Nigerian youth who stand the risk of being reminded any day, anywhere in his motherland that he/she is a stranger, whose landmark contributions to national development can be deliberately sidelined because of where he/she comes from

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