We throw the word “youth” around quite a bit and we use a standard United Nations age definition but really, is that what youth is?
For me, youth is an “experience” which is indeed captured best within a specific age range BUT that age range is NOT sacrosanct and varies across different circumstances to different countries.
For example, if we were to define fatherhood as an age range of when you reasonably expect a man to have his first child, you’ll probably get the age range of 24-40 as acceptable. But is the age range the definition of fatherhood?
So, fatherhood, like youth, is an experience best captured in an age range but not defined by it.
My alternate definition of “youth” is:
“the age range uninterrupted by tragedy where you have reasonable financial independence, near zero responsibility and the freedom to waste it all and still have opportunity to start afresh”
The combination of these factors allows you to be most creative because there’s no burden of responsibility and fear of failure is not debilitating. Based on this, we, as Nigerians, have to redefine “youth” to capture our uniqueness and experience and ensure we extract the true value from the population.
For us, our socio-economic and socio-political circumstance and the dearth of quality within the educational institutions creates “tragedy” too early for us to have a real, productive “youth” population because by the time the average Nigerian can take the reckless risk of youth, there’s marriage, kids and all that “youthful” exuberance dies!
For example, between going through the eyes of the needles called JAMB, ASUU strikes and NYSC batch whatever, you will be starting your journey of financial independence between the ages of 27-29 years. Is there still reasonable time to risk it all and start again without feeling you’ve lost anything?
Our 28yr old counterparts elsewhere have 6-8years work experience, a mortgage, savings for 1-3yrs and can take 2/3yrs off to pursue anything they choose, possibly fail at it, and yet, still have all it takes to get right back in. But if that “youth” happens to succeed at that risky venture, they will, as we say, blow.
In summary, our society introduces fear, trauma & tragedy way too early in our lives & that kills our experience of youth even before it is birthed. We are dependent for much longer than allows for independence that spurns creativity and we have grave responsibilities too soon after attaining any form of financial independence.
By “killing our youth”, we don’t refer to just killing people, we are killing the experiences and potentials that those experiences bring!
Some of the contributing factors to “killing our youth” could be our refusal to invest in education, our lecturers taking pride in failing students, the government not understanding the tragedy of making graduates wait 1-2yrs before “servicing”, a service that has long lost its use etc
Sadly, the physical & mental energy of the young, when not harnessed, becomes destructive! By killing our youth, we are killing ourselves.