By Tobby Otum
The Coronavirus pandemic has temporarily set back the global agenda of ensuring young people aged between 10 to 24 years are in education, training or employment by 2030, President Uhuru Kenyatta has said.
The President noted that globally, schools for more than 168 million children have been closed for almost an entire year due to Covid-19 lock downs.
“Young people have lost jobs and livelihoods and others have been exposed to personal risks such as teenage pregnancy and alcohol and drug abuse,” the President said.
The President spoke on evening during a Generation Unlimited (GenU) global leadership council meeting held virtually and attended by Prime Minister Alexander De Croo of Belgium, President Mokgweetsi Masisi of Botswana and former British PM Gordon Brown.
President Masisi and PM De Croo are new entrants into GenU’s leadership council where President Kenyatta is a member and a strong voice for the youth agenda.
Gen U is a partnership that brings together the youth, governments, multilateral organizations, the private sector and civil society to advance Sustainable Development Goals and the United Nations’ Youth 2030 Strategy.
Despite the setback, President Kenyatta said the pandemic has catalysed young peoples’ innovativeness and heightened the relevance of the GenU vision.
Citing the example of Mr Calvin Shikuku Odhiambo, a 2020 GenU Youth Challenge winner from Kenya, President Kenyatta said young people have shown amazing resilience and eagerness to seek solutions.
“He (Odhiambo) represents a generation of talented innovators in Kenya, which includes a group of 16 university students who designed locally made ventilators and were recognised as UN Persons of the Year 2020,” President Kenyatta said.
The President emphasized the need to give the youth a chance, saying they hold the key to recovery, resilience and a sustainable future in line with GenU’s four work streams of connectivity to schools, scaling-up online and remote learning platforms, encouraging entrepreneurship skills and supporting young people as change makers.
“The four work streams speak directly to actions we need to take to support the world’s 1.8 billion young people recover and rebuild post-Covid; and in the longer term, equip them to become productive workers and global citizens,” President Kenyatta said.
He expressed satisfaction that GenU’s broad based partnership platform has made it possible to bring together public, private and youth partners to strengthen coordination and impact of the many youth initiatives in Kenya.
In this regard, the President singled out his administration’s partnership with Unicef ITU’s Giga initiative that helping to connect schools to the internet, a project that has delivered one million devices to Kenyan schools.
“But we now need to exponentially expand connectivity to reach each and every child and ensure effective learning through digital platforms. I invite partners to join us on this expansion,” he said.
At the same time, the President spoke about the Global Partnership for Education (GPE), a platform through which Kenya and the UK seeks to raise 5 billion USD for helping children across the world to access education.
“The campaign will culminate in a GPE Financing Summit to be held later in the United Kingdom on July 28 to 29.
“I invite you to join us at the Summit and harness the GenU platform to mobilize resources to help countries re-imagine and re-build education systems for a more resilient world,” President Kenyatta said.
On his part, President Masisi welcomed his addition to GenU’s leadership council saying he will leverage on his skills and networks to promote the interests of young people across the world.
Prime Minister De Croo said Covid-19 had exacerbated global inequalities and called on the private sector to assist governments in investing more in education so as to enable the youth access quality jobs and develop their entrepreneurial abilities. President Kenyatta was joined at the virtual meeting by Head of Public Service Dr Jo