Mentors lead youth from the depths of despair to fulfilment

Tuesday June 04 2019

Mastering a craft is best conducted under tutelage of an expert. PHOTO | SHUTTERSTOCK


Why do a large proportion of the youth in Africa dream of leaving their country in search of greener pastures?

And just what are these greener pastures abroad? I remember when people migrated in large numbers to the UK and the United States in the ‘80s and ‘90s. The typical ‘Green pasture’ was something like this...

They arrived in London and squatted with someone and probably slept on a couch in the sitting room or on the floor.

They had to hit the ground running and had no time to recover from their trip. In spite of all the schooling and degrees obtained back home, they had still to look for the quickest hustle to earn some money and contribute to house expenditure.

So, they ended up working as parking attendants or at McDonalds flipping burgers during the day, dashing for class in the evening (because no matter how educated they were, their certification was not recognised). To make ends meet, they took on other jobs working as a security guard or cab driver at night.

Greener pasture


What I have just described above certainly does not depict our vison of a greener pasture.

However, after a few years of hard work, personal development and understanding the system, these people eventually become successful in different fields. Greener pasture is not an easier path. It is just a surer path.

The youth of Africa are hard working and will thrive given the right environment. This is a guarantee that armed with a dream, hard work and personal development their tomorrow will be better than their today. That is what the youth consider greener pastures. They will work their hearts out at three or four jobs a day if they are assured of this.

Unfortunately, this is what a lot of our governments have been unable to provide. Instead of creating such greener pastures, governments are busy building system that churn out more tenderpreneurs than entrepreneurs.

This is doomed since subjecting young people only to tenderpreneurship training is a recipe for graft and a template for passing on corruption to new generations.

We talk a lot about mentoring but what does it mean to mentor?

A decade ago, we sought to find a way to tackle this problem at a micro level in a high density area of Nairobi called Mathare. Some of our students were former gangsters and totally messed up young people.

Many of them grew up to absentee fathers and alcoholic mothers who constantly abused them verbally and physically. Against this backdrop, many of them did not see any light in the future.

Today, many of those young people are transformed and are now live a life that is totally different from their modest background. Above all, they envision a brighter tomorrow.

Our vision is to eliminate youth unemployment in this country and we seeing our efforts succeeding. We now have a template for success that can be shared across the continent.

Phenomenal success

First, we worked on the mentality of these youths. We shifted their thinking away from a victim mentality to one of taking responsibility for their lives.

We taught them how to nurture an identity and develop self-confidence. We taught them about integrity and the value of hard work and building big dreams.

We taught them how to develop themselves. We got them books and clothes and led them to a place where they believed in themselves for the first time in their lives.

Programmes that give money to the youth without changing their mindsets are exercises in futility. We need to remember that they already had many needs before the money came along and that these needs would always take top priority. For this reason, we never gave money to our Mathare youth.

Once the mindset was changed, we then helped them to identify their natural talents and then we began to nurture them and develop them.

We poured money into starting businesses around their talents. The result is phenomenal and the success rate is absolutely amazing.

We have hundreds of young people now applying to be part of the programme because they see a future that is brighter than their dark past.

There is a hero in everyone stuck at point zero. Mentorship is the ability to spot the hero while they are still at zero and invest time and resources to bring their heroism out.

Wale Akinyemi is the chief transformation officer, PowerTalks