The political history of Namibia is sprinkled with the heroism of young Namibians who, during three quarters of the twentieth century, stood up to challenge the socio-economic injustices their communities suffered.
Today, Namibia is independent, enjoying political freedoms enjoyed by youth in developed and other developing countries across the globe. As I pointed out in my article of 11 May 2021, ‘The myth of economic liberation in Namibia’, I reiterate that the political freedoms Namibians enjoy today remain incomplete without economic liberation.
In this article, however, I first observe that only the youth will engender socio-economic transformation in Namibia. Second, I argue that the desired socio-economic transformation in Namibia may never happen in the next 30 years because our youth appear to have rejected the critical and vigilant mindsets of their forefathers. But let us first briefly explore the challenges Namibian youth face today.
Young Namibians face considerable difficulties and barriers in achieving a better quality of life. Government-sanctioned evidence shows that most young people in Namibia live in poverty and are struggling to develop to their full potentials. Unfortunately, the youth are powerless to change the situation around them as they have inadequate resources to provide for their material and emotional needs. It could also be said that the youth in Namibia experience poor quality education, lack access to land and youth-friendly health services. Many more experience gender discrimination and unemployment. Surprisingly, politicians perceive young people as troublemakers and too young to contribute to decision-making. As a result, this form of social exclusion continues to prevent the nation’s youth from having a voice and thus stifles their personal development.
Despite the multitude of challenges Namibian youth experience, policymakers continue to pay little attention to their needs. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the youth’s concerns are somehow subsumed into childhood and adulthood policies and programmes; an approach that ignores the needs of the youth. If the current policy framework views the youth as a ‘problem’ than a resource for the development of the country, what then should the youth of Namibia do? There are many actions the youth of Namibia should undertake to undermine the current unfavourable policy environment.
Decades ago, Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924), hate him or love him, argued that, foremost, one of the youth’s responsibilities in society is to ‘learn’. It is no secret that from time immemorial, human beings have learnt new habits with a high level of sophistication. The human evolution from the Stone Age to today’s Information Age is self-evident. However, as you read this opinion, Namibia’s political, educational and health systems are in the intensive care unit. More disturbing is the fact that while most citizens slide into poverty, poor education opportunities and ill-health, the Namibian youth are sitting on the fence either smiling or watching and quietly complaining about the country’s current socio-economic status. Some youth league leaders are rejoicing as Namibia implodes. The total silence of young people on Namibia’s socio-economic situation provokes many questions: What are schools and universities teaching our youth? How is theory and practice taught in our education establishments? Do schools and universities in our country teach critical analysis of facts? How is book knowledge treated in our classrooms? Do our schools and universities teach work ethics and how do students learn work ethics?
Perhaps a key question is, what happened to activism and critical thinking that led to Namibia’s political independence that every citizen enjoys today? It is disheartening that while Namibia’s education system is in doldrums, the youth of this country chose to dance to the tunes of Beyonce and R-Kelly, instead. Where are the youth’s voices demanding the provision of quality education and training, equitable funding, the establishment of world-class infrastructure, expanding of access to education and training for all, creation of sustainable opportunities, jobs, promotion of a green economy and the implementation of existing public policies for the benefit of all citizens? Remember that apartheid was a brutal system, but the youth of yesteryear stood up united to demand their human rights. History will not treat you kindly for using your voice to transform your nation. The then apartheid regime was evil — but today the rest is history! The final question is, are you challenging your party leaders on issues affecting the youth of this country? Or have you chosen to tolerate the socio-economic atrocities individuals are committing in your name? If you do not speak out for yourself, someone will speak on your behalf and you may not like what she/he decides for you. But it will be too late to complain.