By Esther Kalenzi
While scrolling through one of my favourite sites on the internet, Humans of New York, which is a photo blog accompanied by short stories, I came across an image with a passage that caught my attention.
"I went home to my country after I graduated. I thought I was going to be a change agent. Things were so corrupt there, that you had to pay a bribe to even get a driver's license.
I set up community organizations. I thought if people had information, and knowledge, the culture would change. But nothing changed. It's so hard to build a democracy in a country with no history of democracy.
Nobody cared about changing the country. They only wanted to enrich themselves. 'Everyone has to eat,' they would say."
Right below this picture were thousands of readers with different responses. There were several comments dedicated to trying to find out which country this gentleman was from. They mentioned India, Brazil, Croatia, Nigeria and many more. The truth is, that short tale describes more countries than we care to admit.
The fact that he went back to New York means that when nothing changed, he decided to leave the said country. Can we blame him?
Changing a culture takes time but it has to begin somewhere, with someone. Evidently, it would be easier if the change agents were more but it happens to be the road less travelled.
I have interacted with several youth in Uganda who have tried to change their society through different channels but along the way, they are met with resistance and ridicule from both their peers and seniors that they end up giving up. Actually, there is a quote that comes to mind “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realise how close they were to success when they gave up.”
These young people have traded their hopes and dreams for a rat race that may comprise of monotony but also saves them from being mentioned as a mere unemployment statistic.
Several public and private offices continue to sustain employees who have ‘outgrown’ their positions both in age and capacity.
When shall the youth actually be placed in the positions that belong to them in the first place? While we mull over that, is it enough to comfortably wait for this point in time rather than create platforms that voice our views?
For a country considered to have the youngest population in the world, with 77% of its population being under 30, what are we doing to maximize the energy and resources that lie in these young men and women?
There are countless opportunities in form of fellowships, scholarships and trainings abroad that are targeting the youth. Brilliant young Ugandans are scooping these positions because their uniqueness, intelligence and ability to lead have been noticed. These institutions have chosen to believe in these individuals and hone their talent. They will then benefit from a wealth of experience and networks in their different fields.
Aren’t we even a tad guilty of ignoring the treasure in our midst or is it the proverbial case of a prophet not having honour in his own home?
While we try to salvage this situation, special emphasis should be put on our children.
As a parent or elder, your obligations are endless but you also have the mandate to groom a generation of doers.
Here is your chance to raise children who are allowed to have independent thoughts and dream of hitherto unfathomed inventions. Their talent and skills, no matter how seemingly insignificant should be celebrated at every opportunity to encourage growth.
We need to continue to produce a crop of young people who will not conform to the status quo when they can transform their society.
We can change our world by controlling our culture. We ought to demonstrate the type of world we want to live in using our actions and speaking through our work.
We must remember that change will not come if we wait for another person or some other time. Change needs to begin with us and the best time to start is right now.
The writer is the team leader, 40 days over 40 smiles Foundation
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