By EMEKA EJERE
The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic came with associated consequences for almost every aspect of Nigerian national life but at the moment it is taking a huge toll on and heavily impacting the Nigerian youth, Business Hallmark checks have confirmed.
According to investigations, this is taking the specific form of triggering a groundswell of disaffection and disillusionment by the young people, who number close to two-thirds of the overall population in Africa’s largest economy, which has since floundered by -6 per cent in recent GDP numbers as disclosed by the National Bureau of Statistics, NBS.
Atop the crisis is the widespread disruption of activities in the educational sector with the lockdown-induced schools’ closure coming to count as indeed a huge disincentive for the young people of the country.
Though some educational activities have presently migrated online, analysts say that given the objectively parlous economic conditions in which over half of the population is enmeshed, it is only a tiny fraction that can, and is indeed benefiting from this alternative online educational reality at the moment.
What to do?
Analysts say that the options before the country are indeed quite evident. The nation cannot afford to keep the schools continually shut-in and so the question now is when likely would school across the board be permitted to reopen to avert further systemic regression?
Indeed, the initial evidence of the fact that the shut-in was already headed for stormy waters had emerged when the Nigerian authorities announced that its national participation in the already scheduled concluding examinations sequence for secondary schools under the aegis of the West African Examination Council, WAEC, had been postponed indefinitely. Many kicked and insisted that something is done to ensure that the affected young people do not lose a year.
Indeed, given this scenario, the prognosis informing public displeasure was that Nigeria was at the risk of losing a generation of its people on account of the growing sense of disillusionment and un-involvement among its young people.
Ordinarily very energetic and ebullient, the young people now found themselves being restrained from moving around and getting their groove.
‘It has indeed been a very strange and difficult time for me. There is no fun. I find that I have to sit at home endlessly and cannot just go out and play. I am not happy,’ one of the affected young people told this reporter.
But even more insidious is the concern that the scourge of cultism, crime, gambling, and internet fraud, aka ‘yahoo yahoo’ may already be taking advantage of this situation to the detriment of the better-ingrained values, security and societal health and well being.
But for the writer, counsellor and motivational speaker and writer, Kingsley Obom Egbulem, the situation does not exactly have to result in a crisis.
Affirming that he could not directly corroborate the assertions being made to the effect that the situation may be leading to an inadvertent spike in anti-social behaviour among the younger generation, he, however, concedes that it is indeed a situation that requires prudent handling:
‘To a large extent, it is beyond the call of many young people. I think this is where the line is drawn between kids with very smart parents and guardians and those whose parents and guardians are ignorant, not very well exposed and unintentional.
‘The last 5 months is enough for an unguarded and unguided youngster to derail and self destruct. So, it’s an opportunity for many to get better while many are ruining their lives. It’s a parenting challenge if you ask me.
‘But for those who are outside the custody of their parents or who enjoy relative freedom and autonomy, there is no better opportunity to build capacity; as in learning to solve a problem, create value that could also attract value and open doors to you. There are more than enough skills to learn and many problems to solve. We use more soaps now, more dish washer…these can be learned. Phone repairs can be learned online.
‘I have a graduate at home who is a skilled content writer and she works for 3 clients from home…imagine 25k from each of these clients while at home? At the same time, someone is smoking his life away, another person has gotten pregnant and then others are coding, learning to play the sax, selling roasted corn and plantain and delivering moi-moi every weekend since the lockdown. So, it’s a matter of decisions that should be taken based on parental vision and capacity at the end of the day,’ the counsellor remarked.
Indeed, ‘different strokes indeed for different folks,’ some would say. And in a society with poorly developed social welfare and counselling systems, you can imagine how far-reaching the challenge is. Nigeria’s younger generation needs all the help it can find.