Melody Dube, Features Reporter
Youths in Zimbabwe have become daily victims of lifestyles, behaviours and social trends in a society which has become less proactive in shielding them from such.
Young people today are trapped by so many things from which they do not know how to free themselves. Some are victims of social trends which mostly come from social media with a notion that money is a necessity for one to be recognised in society. Drug and alcohol abuse have become the order of the day.
Gangsterism continues to be a norm among male youths. Lately, settling for abusive relationships, which mostly happens to young women has become a common thing. These are behaviours which start as a way of having fun but later become uncontrollable and destructive to young lives, both male and female.
The activities which youths engage in nowadays appear harmless but have an impact of completely destroying the future of our nation. As a result, some lives have been lost.
In a recent incident, 24-year-old Prudence Ndlovu was murdered in Nkulumane suburb over cheating allegations by her boyfriend who later committed suicide.
This was a wake-up call to many parents and a clarion call to keep a close eye on the country’s youths.
Previously, youth centres across the country’s cities played a key role in grooming youths and keeping them occupied but many of these youth centres have become white elephants.
The youths would engage in activities such as sports, arts and craft.
The Ndlovu brothers, Madinda, Peter and the late Adam, were products of Thabiso Youth Centre, an iconic sporting hub located in Makokoba suburb.
The three brothers became a prominent inspiration to other young people of their time as they went on to become international soccer players.
However, these facilities have become less effective today. As much as some of them are still open to the youths, they are no longer as effective. Times have changed and so have the interests of the young people today.
Bulawayo’s Ward 13 Councillor Mr Frank Javangwe said, “We no longer get much participation from our young people in these youth centres like it used to be back then. They are no longer interested in what we offer around here.”
Clr Javangwe is in charge of the Mabutweni, Iminyela, Pelandaba and O Square youth centres.
The councillor suggested that if the youth centres can be developed to meet the interests of young people today, they would go a long way in protecting the youths from destructive behaviour.
He said there is need for technological advancement such as having internet services at these facilities.
Following the Covid-19 induced lockdown, youth centres have not been operational which has aggravated the plight of youths.
Even those who used to go to these centres do not have that access at the moment hence the risk of finding other entertainment activities which may be destructive.
A concerned parent, Ms Sdudla Ngwenya from Mpopoma suburb said the lockdown has not made things better either. Young people have become hard to control.
“I no longer see much activity from these youth centres like I used to before. Our children no longer go there and since schools are also closed, it becomes hard to control their activities. They spend their time roaming the streets in gangs, which is not safe,” she lamented.
Like Clr Javangwe, Ms Ngwenya said an internet service would get the youths back to the centres.
Many livelihoods have been threatened by the Covid-19 pandemic and the wider economic challenges the country has been facing in recent years.
This has seen many parents leaving their homes seeking economic redemption outside the country.
As a result, their children are left alone to raise themselves or under the care of relatives. A lot of recklessness and irresponsibility transpires from these child-headed homes due to the lack of nurturing. A common case nowadays has been the hosting of “vuzu” parties.
Vuzu parties are usually held in homes where young people live alone.
Thirty-three youths aged between 16 and 25 were recently arrested for hosting an illegal party at Pelandaba West suburb. Thirteen attendees were reported to have been females. It was reported that the host’s parents reside in Botswana. There is usually substance abuse and sex orgies at these parties.
Lack of employment opportunities has also pushed some youths into reckless lifestyles.
“I am no longer at school and neither am I working. Staying at home doing nothing daily is frustrating for me. I would suggest that we be provided with employment opportunities as young people and that would protect us from all the dangers in our society,” said a young lady who preferred anonymity.
A 21-year-old man who also preferred anonymity said he is a primary school drop-out who has been struggling to make ends meet.
He now runs a business outside his house in Entumbane suburb where he washes cars and mends tyres, since the beginning of the second lockdown.
His business protects him from all the other destructive activities, except for smoking which he claims is for having a good vibe.
“Running this business keeps me away from gangsterism that some of my peers are into,” he said.
There is need for Government to step in and assist communities keep their youths out of trouble.
Although the Zimbabwe Youth Council is in place to address the concerns of youths in the country, more needs to be done.
However, it is commendable that Empower Bank is there to offer loans to youth-led businesses and agriculture projects.
More youth focused programs and activities are still needed in order to protect every one of them.
Traditionalist Mr David Mhabinyane Ngwenya offered a more traditional perspective as a way of preserving Zimbabwe’s youth.
He said young people should be taken back to what is called ‘vocational training’.
This is where they will be taught craft work such as carpentry and sewing.
This way, young people will have an opportunity to realise where their natural gifts lie and focus on that. “Our communities need to take our young people back into vocational training where they will learn to do handiwork. This will protect the girl child from falling into today’s challenges like unwanted pregnancies, and the boy child from substance abuse.”