As a developing country where the youth aged 25 years and below account for 68% of the country’s estimated 11.7 million people according to Zambia Central Statistics Office, 2006 projections. With a rise in population according to the 2010 Census preliminary results, in which the country’s population recorded to be about 13 million, the youth population is also expected to rise. This bottom heavy demographic presents a major challenge with its far reaching consequences on the productive and social sectors of the country. The main problems that youth in Zambia face include poor information flow on issues affecting their own survival and transition into adulthood, limited participation in national development and decision making, lack of quality and adequate and equal education especially secondary, lack of quality, affordable, and easily accessible training, lifelong learning and skills development opportunities, an absence of youth rights, lack of opportunities for their integration into economic, political and social development .
Truly, achieving youth in development, requires the meaningful consideration of a youth perspective. A youth perspective means young people are actors and resources in development cooperation.
Firstly, through being actors in society, youth gain a voice in and experience and knowledge of democratic processes. This requires bringing together youths from all walks of life, mentor them, provide relevant skills and information so as to help them be informed on several issues affecting their development and that of their communities .It requires helping young people to realise potential and awaken their pro-activeness, as well as engaging them in activities that would help them develop a positive attitude.
Secondly, it is important to work together with youths for poverty reduction and a democratic society free of discrimination where the rights of all people are respected, and where everyone has influence on social-economic development. Poverty can be reduced once young people have the opportunity to have an impact on their life situations. Analysing and combating power hierarchies that stand in the way of democratic development based on the equal value of all people is a recipe for a just society which should not be overlooked. Youth in development requires the serious consideration of power and participation issues, young people have the right to take part in decisions affecting them. As a relevance issue, youth and adults together are able to achieve better results, when youth are actors and resources in development cooperation, and when their experience is put to use.
Thirdly, lack of skills and access to opportunities, is cause of poverty for many youths. Empowering young people to engage in productive livelihoods is consistent with the first of the Millennium Development Goals, which is concerned with poverty eradication. The ability to engage in a livelihood should also be viewed as a vital life skill and a great contribution to the achievement of goal three(3) of the Education For All agenda- providing young people and adults with access to quality life-skills programmes. Young people should be encouraged to perceive themselves as actors responsible for their own lives. While encouraging independent thought, creativity and initiative, the benefits of collaborative work should be demonstrated among the youth.
Improving education for the world of work can help improve the income of poverty-stricken farmers, and many other artisans, provide citizens with more choices in their lives, help alleviate poverty, and help empower individuals who would otherwise be marginalised. It is evident that improving education programs such as Technical Education and Vocational Training can play an essential role in promoting economic growth and the social-economic development of countries, with benefits for individuals, their families, local communities and society in general. This education should accommodate even those who may have no access to regular formal schooling and are also excluded from participating in economic and social life. Youths today would enter a workforce that is vastly different from that of the past generation. Increasingly, they must be able to work in teams that are cross functional and often global to solve complex and important problems that critically affect the world while responding creatively to rapidly changing business landscapes using rapidly evolving technologies.
Zambia has been facing a gap between the knowledge and skills needed for future success and the current education system, which, perhaps would be considered to have been designed to impart a fixed body of knowledge rather than initiate a lifelong journey of creative thinking and agile learning. This calls for more intervention by different stakeholders so that adequate and relevant skills and knowledge for the current and future workforce is developed among the youth. In other words 21st Century Skills are needed. These consist of Critical thinking, Creativity, Teamwork, Cross-Cultural Understanding, Self-Direction, Communication and Technology. In Zambia, Telecentres have proved to influence youth participation in development by playing a vital role of providing tools and a platform for 21st Century Skills acquisition, skills development, lifelong learning, collaboration, access to information for social and economic development.
Through Telecentres, young people have been also been able to participate in decision making and have become actors and resources in development cooperation.As social media has become popular among the youth, there is a steady and rapid transition in the use of social networks such as facebook from friend finding or reconnection to creative self-expression, debate-especially on political and democratic development issues, discussion on youth issues such as HIV/AIDS, sexual and reproductive health, and self-sustainability. Because of interesting topics and information relevant circulating among these social media, more youths have become active users. This transition as led to more youths exploring social media, thus, finding these platforms useful for learning ,networking, self-expression, collective initiative construction, source of inspiration, self-evaluation, source of information on current affairs. The focus on the search for information for education, health, business and other purposes has shifted from ordinary libraries to the internet, making the youth to be the majority of the users of telecentre facilities. As local learning institutions advance and collaborate with foreign based ones and transform their training delivery, online learning has become popular and Telecentres act as access centres.
Access to virtual learning opens doors from the youth to engage in 21st Century Skills Learning, with more open learning platforms becoming useful. As a result of having Telecentres within communities youth have replicated either a single service or a number of services offered by Telecentres e.g. word and document processing, to set up small businesses .In this case Telecentres in Zambia are not only acting as model enterprises but also provide ICT Skills, ICT tools for e- commerce, communication, market search and collaboration with other entrepreneurs. It has proven to be much more advantageous in cases where skills development for entrepreneurs are provided on a one- to -one basis or a group f entrepreneurs rather than in combined classes with others from different fields. Poultry farming is one of the fast growing agri-business beside horticulture in Zambia .Due to high competition dealers are challenged to look for various of methods of preparing feed or pesticide for their crops, as well as the best breed that will ensure their products are much more marketable .Though there are no well established locally developed repository for such information, farmers still take advantage of the readily available information on the internet from other sources.
Access to global network on issues that negatively affect the youth such us HIV/AIDS and Human right, Sexual and reproductive health and Rights, improves the knowledge and skills for pro-activeness among the youth. Zambian youths have not been left out in this development and have been participating in these networks, therefore maximising their performance, improving service delivery while increasing impact and participation in on a global voice. Noticeable Youth Activists on difference issues are part of this drive and most of them depend on Telecentres for computer use the internet access. With more Telecentres which have been established in rural and poor urban settings, ICT awareness is growing, with more youths accessing ICT tools through Telecentres. This development is seeing equality among the urban and rural youths in terms of information access for survival and development.
Telecentres in Zambia are truly boosting the Youth In Development Agenda. With the development of the Zambia Telecentre Network, more institutions working in the area of youth in development should collaborate with the network so as to enhance their service delivery through ICTs, because it is evident enough that Zambia can achieve the goals of the Youth in Development agenda through the use of ICTs and can actually take advantage of Telecentres, being the access centres housing ICT tools and a platform. Together, let’s consider the youth as actors and resources in development cooperation and foster the establishment of telecentreswhile building the knowledge and skills of other those operating related information access centres and ICT4D acitivities.
By Wandila Simon Kamukwape Zambia Telecentre Network -Member Programs Manager –Youth Skills for Development http://wandila.wordpress.com www.i-am-the-story.ning.com www.youthskills4dev.interconnection.org www.world-virtual-school.com/africa/africasouth/zambiavs.html