Is This Really Adding Value, Empowering Or Simply Exploiting the Youth?

An 'empowering' youth tournament
I happened to attend a soccer tournament sponsored by an aspirant seeking an elective position the other week. The about two dozens youths in the field chasing after inflated pigskin (ball) were outdoing each in showcasing their raw dribbling skills. Whether this was motivated by the money on offer or the passion to advance their skills to the next level was hard to tell. 

  A careful look, however, revealed that the young sportsmen were drawn from local high schools within the locale with village wastrels thrown in to make up cobbled teams. I was made to understand these students were using the matches for ‘fitness purposes’ as they are part of their respective school teams.

  Coaches and referees were anything other than drunkards you meets at trading centres with glassy looking eyes. Your guess as to where they were to spend the handouts (or cash prizes for that matter) given after the matches is as good as mine.

  Sadly, no ambulance or doctors were at standby to attend to any case of emergency arising.

  To say that the youngsters showed flashes of brilliance or needed to advance their talents to the next level is not an understatement. What was worth noting - and this is a sad observation - was lack of scouts to identify which players needed further exposure after secondary education in order to live off their skills. Here were future Denis Oliechs, McDonald Marigas, Victor Wanyamas and so on.

  Scouts, I’m sure, would have placed the promising and future Harambee Stars players into soccer academies or have second tier (National Super League) teams signing any of them to further grow on their skills. The level of potential exhibited here was high! Unfortunately, such players are left to waste away in unstructured village leagues with their talents dying a natural death eventually.

  Five years down the line, a majority of these young men will be jobless. Though they crooned many hosannas to this political benefactor after the cash handouts, I’m sure the aspirant had the mistaken belief he is going to carry the day (nomination and election) that he promised them lofty goodies!

  There is a difference between using the youths to further one’s political agenda and empowering or adding value to them. Take the instance of one player suspected to have lost a tooth following a challenge while vying for an aerial ball. The opponent’s elbow connected with his mouth smack on that he had to be walked out of the field with a bleeding mouth covered with a piece of cloth – no first aid kit tools here! When you meet with such a youth and he flashes a toothless grin at you, how will you reconcile with his explanation that the tooth loss stemmed from a politician's efforts to ‘empower or add value’ to him? Seeing his physique is the kind that qualifies him for induction to the military force, will you simply sympathize and empathize with him when he is turned away on account of missing tooth/teeth?

  Boda boda operators are becoming campaign tools for these aspirants as well. It is amazing the speed with which they are shifting loyalty from one aspirant to the other. Any reflector jacket complete with picture and slogan of an aspirant is welcome, and serves as an impetus to go hooting round the village roads calling on the wananchi to elect that particular ‘philanthropist’ (yes, giving out reflector jackets qualifies one as a philanthropist!), but the tune will be different the next day.

  For, as I observed, a politician’s ‘philanthropic’ shelf-life ends when his or her rival shows up and hands the same boda boda operators shiny reflector jackets with nice caps and his or her song will reverberate to the vaults of heaven... until another aspirant shows up with more 'goodies'!

  And all this is in name of empowering the youth! Take that to the birds!


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