By Ali Mutanje
Now that almost all the election dust has settled, since the president was sworn in, and a new speaker sits tight at the helm of this 11th parliament term, some semblance of sanity can be expected. Most of the noise and fracas during the campaigns and election cycles at the different levels of administrations was made by youths. And it is also important to note that a significant proportion of legislators in this 11th parliament falls under the category “youths”.
This nation boasts a whopping 60% of youths (people aged between 18 and 30) if general belief is to be taken seriously, even though this is not supported by the most recent national census data. Fortunately for the sport of rugby, this is the age range for most participants in the sport. One wonders, why? The unemployment rate is so rampant amongst the youths!
What’s the current situation?
Well, most youths have devoted themselves to riding Bodas and working as touts (hawkers) and taxi drivers when not gambling away at the several betting outlets scattered all over the country. However, simplifying this self intervention to break the poverty cycle might be, and to some even considering it not the worst thing to do, a big question looms: Is it sustainable and is it economically valuable?
Some have opened up Chapati stalls for a daily income; also not sustainable and government policies and livelihood interventions do not particularly support this. In some places, you find ten stalls in a single area less than 3 meters apart. Competition is so high and the returns so low.
Government support for rugby.
The government of Uganda has pledged and supported rugby over the years. They pay over half the budget of the game through the Uganda Rugby Union.
They have allowed the league to blossom and offer funding to the rugby Cranes and 7s during international tournaments.
But this is the bare minimum and has not been enough to engulf the unemployment problem amongst the youths. There’s room for improvement and still, more to do that can go a long way to solve the unemployment and security conundrum.
What can be done?
The government needs to tailor its policies into what interests youths around the nation and that is sports and entertainment. Apparently, the latter is well infiltrated with youths; it’s the former which is lacking.
Focusing on sport and particularly rugby as a sport that can both, directly and indirectly, benefit the young generation with a sustainable living while contributing positively to the nation.
Look at the crowds pulled by the Elgon elephants in the East. Jinja Hippos in Jinja has a big following that attracts youths in different capacities. The young man playing for passion, the boy selling his water or the people that roast muchomo at Kyadondo Rugby grounds. These impact the livelihoods of many.
Unfortunately, there’s a long way to go to accommodate the local man in Mbale who doesn’t need to move to Kampala like the Pirates captain Ivan Magomu to realize his dream of playing the game.
The people at the helm should realize this is not just a game. It is an economic way of economic transformation for many societies.
Uganda employers often refrain from hiring young people for their apparent lack of soft skills rather than their lack of experience, which can ultimately be achieved by in-house training. So understanding how these soft skills that can be developed through sports – such as ethics, attitudes and communications – are relevant to the world of work provides an interesting perspective on youth employability.
The question is simple: isn’t it strange to think that young people can excel at sports but do not possess the necessary skills for the jobs that they want? And why is it that only formal qualifications apply during a hiring process?
The discipline exhibited by the Kobs players throughout the season to go the whole season with the least cards, the passion to win all the games and stick to plans to do it. Isn’t that competitiveness what is needed to sustain oneself in a corporate kind of entity? Is it a wonder that Ivan Magomu is a lawyer and he has found employment in the Union?
What if platforms were laid down to produce more Magomu(s) in the country?
St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Namugongo SS are affiliated with some teams in the league. It is easy for a player to cross over from there to any of the three best teams in the league.
But what hope is there for a young man who has studied at Bumageni army school and cannot afford to go to Namugongo or Kisubi?
More needs to be done. Develop the sport in equal measure in schools and communities.
Provide a platform for these young men and women to develop into professional players from their schools. Let the love grow amongst their peers too because these are the future fans. Apparently, rugby is a sport for a select few. How about we try to widen the scope to the young man and woman in the village to know what a try is. It’s not that hard. Let’s bring the game to the people.
The more the youths are involved the less time they have to commit a crime and the more they can earn from it. Rugby is a multi-billion industry if managed well. It has the ability to employ thousands of youths both educated and uneducated. From the gatekeeper at a local stadium to the players and coaches to the referees and commentators. The kit men and groundskeepers, the kit manufacturers. The list is endless. Only if we knew.