Practical Steps To Youth Engagement, Mobilisation
FACED with many challenges thrown up by the ever-changing world youths find themselves behaving like a drowning person throwing hands about in search of something to clutch. But then the current of modern living is so fast that not many youths find themselves on the lucky side of swimming ashore without being swept away by the raging current. This every day struggle for survival is common to youths in every society irrespective of the level of social and economic development. Hence passing through this stage of life is a daunting task not only for the youth but also for their parents/guardians, teachers as well as other persons who have a role to play in steering the youth through the turbulence of passage to adulthood.
This is where Mr. Dominic O. Matthew has stepped in to offer a practical guide on youth development, its challenges and the ways to overcome them.
The book entitled, Practical Perspectives on Youth: Engagement and Mobilisation Strategy is a well thought out magnetic compass to enable the youth navigate successfully through, what I wish to refer to as the “middle passage”.
The book is segmented into eight chapters, with each chapter dealing with an aspect of youth problem and how it can be overcome. In Chapter One the author delves into the definition of the subject matter of the book with a view to making the reader understand the exact segment of the society the book is devoted to. To do this effectively, he brings in the views of experts and social institutions with bias for youth matters. This motley of definitions make interesting reading as each definition seeks to situate the youth in a particular characterisation and its nuances. Check out such definitions of youth as “period of psychological storm and stress”, “period of rebellion” or “period of an orderly developing of a set of slowly maturing interests and activities”. The definition of youth by the United Nations as those within the age range of 16 and 35 differs from Nigeria’s own definition which pegs the takeoff age at 18. This discordance of definition appeared to have propelled the author to offer his own definition of youth as any young person whether physically challenged or not, who is within the active age of 18 – 35years (and) on whose shoulder the burden of transformation and re-engineering the society rest on.”
Given that every youth has a peculiar interest and as such would always gravitate towards those things that appeal to him or her it then becomes a Herculean task to bring together youths with divergent interests and direct them towards a common goal. But the author thinks it is possible and in Chapter Two he discusses youth mobilisation and offers five strategies that can be adopted to achieve success. According to him, youth clubs and voluntary organisations such as Red Cross, Boys Brigade, Boys Scout, among others have proven to be potent rallying points for youths. And with the existence of social networking groups in the internet he feels that youths can be mobilised through such means.
The author having recognized networking as a potent strategy for youth mobilisation goes on to assert that it is a tool for success. He devotes Chapter Three of the book to explain not only what social networking is all about but to also point out its benefits and challenges. He projects social networking as an avenue for sharing knowledge and building relationships as well, drawing example from a personal experience to illustrate how networking can be put to good use in youth mobilisation. Such internet social group platforms as Facebook is cited as a pulling force in social networking hence it can be a veritable means creating social interaction among youths with free flow of information and exchange of ideas.
It is a welcome development that the author has seen the need to include civic education in this book. In fact educationists and social commentators are unanimous that the disappearance of civic education in school curriculum has contributed in no small measure to the absence of patriotic zeal among Nigerian youths. So, in treating this very important subject matter in Chapter Four the author sets out to make youths imbibe the culture of performing their civic duties and obligations to the state. Often time youths appear to be only concerned about their rights while feigning ignorance of their duties and obligations to the state. But here the author has spelt out the obligations that youths must fulfil to contribute to a better society.
He strives to make youths understand that the full enjoyment of their inalienable rights is achieved by performance of their civic duties. The author points out the impropriety of choosing rebellious option in pursuit of their rights.
It is hard to discuss youth issues without making reference to their involvement in crime. Chapter Five of the book treats the burning issue of youth and crime. The author takes the reader through the causes of youth involvement in crime, the challenges of tackling youth proclivity to crime and even uses Holy Scripture quotations to admonish youths against engaging in criminalities. However he notes that curbing youth involvement in crime would take the combined efforts of social institutions including the family, government, religious bodies, non-governmental organisations, media and of course the youth themselves. The role of each of these bodies in curtailing the incidence of youth involvement in crime is laid bare with emphasis on how they are expected to make their contributions in ensuring that youths lose appetite for crime.
Aside from pinpointing crime as a consequent of deviant behaviour among youths the author equally notes that HIV/AIDS is prevalent among the youth population because of their reckless behaviour. Hence in Chapter Six the author delves into the issue of HIV/AIDS, regarded as the curse of our time. He argues that youths fall into the vulnerable group as far as HIV/AIDS pandemic is concerned. The vulnerability of youths, according to him, stems from their active lifestyle, poverty and penchant to engage in risky behaviours that predispose them to contacting HIV. He goes on to inform youths about how and how not they can contract HIV/AIDS and what to do when they find themselves as people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA). Not only that, the author condemns stigmatisation of PLWHA and calls for positive attitude towards them. In conclusion he notes that youth have a major role to play in safeguarding themselves against the scourge of HIV/AIDS. His advice: “Therefore youths owe it a duty not only to themselves but to the larger society to seek information about the disease, re-orientate their attitudes and adopt a more positive behaviour towards the issues of sexuality and reproductive health to be able to guarantee a buoyant healthy future.”
In advocating for positive behaviour among youths the author goes as far as encouraging young people to become financially independent. This is the basic thrust of Chapter Seven. Specifically he wants youths, whether as groups or individuals, to cultivate the habit of saving for the rainy day by investing in the capital market and reap the bountiful gains that accrue from it. He talks about how such investment can be kick started and allowed to be managed by experts to the benefit of the investor. The author discusses with passion stock market investments and lists six strategies to be adopted by the investor to reap a bountiful harvest. He warns against youth clubs dumping their money in bank accounts without investing such money in the stock market, which like other forms of investment remains a veritable means of wealth creation.
Chapter Eight, the last chapter of the book is devoted to yet another youth problem, this time drug abuse. Here the author dissects the involvement of youths in drug abuse, causes, effect and solution. He sees it as a global problem whereby youths voluntarily get involved in drug abuse as a “matter of free will.” In locating the place of drug abuse in youth delinquency the author identifies several factors that drive youths into drug abuse. Some of these include social lifestyle, peer pressure, family breakdown, among others. He lists the major effects of drug abuse, which should be enough to dissuade youths from getting involved in drug abuse. Though he believes that the problem of drug abuse can’t be totally eradicated he nonetheless provides 15 “practical initiatives” that can be taken to curb drug abuse among the young persons.
The noble objectives of the author, namely to enable youths find meaning in life by following the right path are commendable. As a youth mobiliser himself, Mr. Matthew drew from his invaluable experience of many years involvement in youth–based activities to give practical meaning to his ideas. A well researched book the author draws copiously from authorities in relevant aspects of youth development and its attendant problems, including the works of psychologists, sociologists and criminologists as well as documents from international organisations to drive home his message.
The arrangement of the chapters appears to be non-sequential. For instance Chapter Seven where he discussed investment opportunities for youths in stock market should have formed the last chapter of the book. It should not have been placed within the chapters that dealt with youth problems. And as a first time writer of a book of this genre the author can be pardoned for not employing free flowing prose in conveying his message. Nonetheless he has succeeded in sending across his thoughts the best he can.
Is the author writing just for the youth? No. This book is a must read for every stakeholder in youth development. So I recommend it for parents, guardians, teachers, clerics, social workers, and those involved in the administration of justice.
It is a work of a man with undisguised interest and consummate passion for youth development. Left for him no youth should be a delinquent. I see this book as practical and timely contribution in the quest to safeguard the future generation and build a crime free society.