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, had been closed for almost an entire year due to Covid-19 lockdowns.

“Young people have lost jobs and livelihoods and others have been exposed to personal risks such as teenage pregnancy and alcohol and drug abuse,” he said.

The President spoke on Friday 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 British PM Boris Johnson.

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 youth, governments, multilateral organisations, 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 people’s innovativeness and heightened the relevance of the GenU vision.

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Citing the example of 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 youth a chance, saying they hold the key to recovery, resilience, and a sustainable future in line with GenU’s four workstreams 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.

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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 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 28th to 29th July.

“I invite you to join us at the Summit and harness the GenU platform to mobilise resources to help countries re-imagine and re-build education systems for a more resilient world,” President Kenyatta said.

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For 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 exercebated 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 Joseph Kinyua and ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru.

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Robert Mwangi

I am a professional journalist trained at Kenya Institute of Mass Communication, with experience in reporting; Current Affairs, Human Interest and General News. Let's connect and engage on Facebook ( Journalist Robert Mwangi) and Twitter (@robertmwangi254)