Covid-19 Hit the Youth Hard
Essay from Jeremiah Lucas Opira Memorial Contest 2020
Author: Charles Oyet Omoya
Even before the global outbreak of COVID 19, the youth unemployment rate in Uganda stood at 83% for young people aged 15 to 24 (ubos.org, 2019). As the pandemic angrily sailed through Uganda’s soil, the rate of youth unemployment even became severer. The lockdown that was decreed by the president in March 2020, witnessed businesses and companies close as they could not produce what would sustain wholescale operation.
Thousands of youths lost their jobs and or their means of survival almost immediately when the pandemic hit. These young people who are actually depended on by parents, their own children, relatives had to become dependent themselves, some, after 5 years of being independent. The dependency of the average youth on a parent or guardian rose considerably. Many young people opted for meagre-paying casual labour like slashing, fetching water, ferrying building bricks, etc. Unfortunately, government never came up with a comprehensive plan to save the young people from the effects of the pandemic, unlike the old and vulnerable around Kampala who received food materials from the government, the young people were never catered for.
The consequence of losing jobs meant that crime rates doubled or tripled. Where would a young man or woman find money to buy food or pay rent when the entire country is locked down? Even with active evening curfew hours, youths found ways of stealing from other community members so that they could survive. During the 2021 presidential and parliamentary elections, some of the frustrated youths broke into shops in Kampala metropolitan to pick what they could sell to survive. They cannot be blamed because the system failed to accommodate them or give them alternative ways to thieve through the pandemic.
While it is not entirely easy to implement, the government should consider establishing regional entrepreneurship incubation units all across the country, the incubation units must train vocational knowledge and skill to enable the separates youth start their own employment or join industries like metal work, carpentry, cookery, et cetera. The incubation units are not enough, government should accompany them with relevant employment opportunities in industries meant to absorb the youths trained. Vocational education is the future of the Pearl of Africa!