By Fadekemi Azeezat Sulaiman
This is no news, but it still hits me with great sadness.
Nigeria with all it’s wealth came at the bottom in a list of 30 countries analysed by the Global Youth Wellbeing Index.
The report published by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Washigton, the first of it’s kind to focus mainly on the quality of lives of 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24. This is the age group whose success is viewed as being essential for national prosperity and global progress.
The findings of the report are quite depressing and should give every right thinking national or global leader sleepless nights.
About 120 million youths are illiterate and almost half of the global youth population are currently unemployed or underemployed.
If these weren’t enough concern, the threat of deadly diseases such as HIV/AIDS spreading amongst youths globally surely raises the stakes even higher.
The center measured 30 countries which together compromise 70 percent of youth globally and used 40 publicly available data sets in six main sectors – economic opportunity, health, education, safety and security, access to information technology, and citizen participation.
The report found that Australia was the best country in the world to be young, followed by Sweden and the United Kingdom.
The worst countries in the world where youths are thought to quite literally have no chance of moving ahead are Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and lastly Nigeria.
Obviously, a big factor in the findings is that a country’s wealth has little bearing on opportunities for it’s youths, because if that were a factor, with all of Nigeria’s oil wealth, the country will be up there with the top 10 countries.
It wouldn’t surprise you to know that the main areas where Nigeria failed woefully were in education, safety, health and economic opportunity.
Let’s look at these areas one by one.
I haven’t schooled in Nigeria in a while, but something tells me not much has changed. In fact, I suspect things are worse now compared to a decade ago.
I attended a Unity school, one of the great beacons of Nigeria’s education system at the time and I know for certain that even though the standard could have been better, the level of education I received was fair.
It was atleast good enough to enable me get the necessary grades and confidence to get into University and eventually school abroad.
There are graduates in our country who still can not write properly nor can they speak eloquently. A cursory look at your Twitter timeline or Facebook feed will give you a good idea of what I’m talking about.
Students are still paying for ‘machinery’ (I don’t know what it’s called now) to help them sit exams such as JAMB and GCE.
If I’m correct, the pass rate for JAMB has been decreasing year on year and still, this hasn’t flagged up a red flag.
Creating more schools (private or public) will solve very little if we don’t put in the resources to train teachers properly. Give them the right tools and equipment to do their jobs effectively and provide a conducive environment for learning.
A complete review of Nigeria’s educational system is required and fast. Great education should be priority not an option.
Need I say anything on this issue? Even a baby born yesterday has heard of Boko Haram and the menace the group has inflicted on the Nigerian public.
Even though we’re not officially at war, Nigerian refugees who have fled the turmoil in the North east region of the country to neighbouring Cameroon are thought to be approximately 300, 000…and counting.
In a country where citizens flee for fear of their lives to plead for citizenship in a country with less economic growth and potential, it’s not hard to imagine why Nigeria ranked so low.
Recently, Boko Haram stormed a boarding school in Yobe and brutally slaughtered students as they slept in their dormitories.
Even Nigerian youths who try to escape the hardship in Nigeria are plagued by insecurity wherever they are.
Recent killings and maltreatment of Nigerian students abroad in countries like Ghana, Malaysia and India are perfect examples.
It would seem that now matter where in the world you go, your safety is not guaranteed, as long as you’re a Nigerian youth.
If you heard of the sad news of Nigerian singer Zara Gretti this week, you’ll know just how bad our health system is.
The singer had to fly to the US several times in order to receive treatment for Multiple Sclerosis, a neurological condition that can hit anyone at anytime in their lives.
She later lost the battle with the illness and even though this may have been inevitable, managing the condition properly would probably have prolonged her life.
In Nigeria, even the rich have to escape the dilapidated hospitals to receive treatment in countries like the UK and Germany.
Nigeria has one of the highest rates of health tourism in the world, but this is only for those fortunate enough to be able to afford it.
For the poor youth suffering from a serious health condition, most often resort to prayers and Holy Ghost nights in the hope of a miracle.
If you were in doubt as to how bad unemployment in Nigeria is, the recent, totally needless waste of young lives at the Nigeria Immigration service recruitment exercise should convince you.
Hundreds of thousands of youths nationwide tried to seize the opportunity to apply for the few (if any) jobs that were on offer at the agency and some never made it home…including young pregnant women.
There’s a global recession, yes, but even the countries in recession such as Britain have taken measures to mitigate the effects of the economic downturn for the future of their youths.
Nigeria was fortunate not to have been impacted by the recession like most countries in the west, yet, the country has higher youth unemployment rates that these countries.
If you don’t know anyone, anywhere, your chances of getting a job in Nigeria are very slim or even non existent.
There has been a focus on Nigeria’s growing middle class who have undoubted spending power, but the ratio of this emerging middle class to the over all population is insignificant.
Many youths are still without jobs and cannot meaningfully contribute to their own family or country’s growth. Hence, the mass exodus and brain drain from the country as youths abandon their homes in search of greener pastures abroad.
Nigeria is a very rich country with a steady GDP. The country is firmly on the radar of international investors as reports suggest that the Nigerian economy will eclipse that of South Africa by 2020.
Nigerian youths are also undoubtedly some of the most intelligent anywhere in the world. Hardworking and enterprising, they can usually be found grafting their way up in all sectors from arts to science. Give them the right tools and support and watch them flourish and unravel.
We need visionary leaders who believe in Nigeria.
Nigerian youths need to create and believe in the Nigerian dream because, yes, it is doable.
If our leaders won’t do it, then it’s time to take control of our future and demand what is by right, ours.