2021 was not an easy year as many people struggled to cope with the complications that COVID-19 continued to assert into the world. Economies were affected especially in Africa where many people continued to eke a living as recovery continued to happen painstakingly since 2020 when the disease hit us. According to the World Bank in Africa, the virus has so far pushed over 40 million people into extreme poverty. Most of Africa struggles with weak health systems and services, and it was a no-brainer that the virus was going to have devastating impact on the world’s most promising continent.
It will take much time for full recovery to happen in Africa as she lags in important facets of recovery. Low vaccination rates due to limited resources, for instance, mean that vulnerable people have been largely unable to benefit. This means that containment measures such as limited movement and gatherings remain in place in many places. People have been losing lives, income, and others have had their health deteriorating owing to COVID-19 infections.
Young people comprise over 70% of Africa’s population, and they suffered greatly, and they are still suffering from this pandemic. Income opportunities have greatly reduced. The education sector has been affected with programmes disrupted and slowed down. Taking the example of Kenya, a crash programme was adopted with minimal time to rest for students which means little time for parents and guardians to prepare relevant items such as fees and learning material in good time. The same pressure is also being felt by teachers. This situation is the same in many African countries.
These situations have emotionally impacted young learners and we must be cognizant of them as we engage with them. We cannot overlook the possibility of mental issues increasing because of the arising new challenges worsening the already existed challenging situations to all. If anything, many young people are distressed by unusual pressures added to the usual challenges they face as they pursue identity and purpose in life. We must pay closer attention to youth and increase our frequency and opportunities of engagement with them. Yes, as parents, guardians, and caregivers, we must double our efforts to attend to material needs of the children and young people but also and more importantly spend time with them, listen to them and guide them to face responsibly their challenges. As all of us and the whole world face a moment of uncertainty, fear, confusion, and trauma, young people need us more than ever.
AJAN as a network is focusing on involving the youth face their world. This issue of AJANews December 2021 features the creative efforts of youth in the creation of awareness in combating HIV/AIDS in Liberia through ingenious ways such as Radio talk, shows under the coordination of the Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Monrovia. In Madagascar the Centre Arrupe Madagascar (CA MDG) is focusing on gender violence awareness among the youth. Therefore, it undertook 16 days of activism against gender violence which is one of the factors of the spread of HIV. The Centre Catholique Universitaire – CIEE/CCU in Bangui (Central Africa Republic) involve the youth activities to end inequalities and prevent HIV spread in the Central Africa Republic. The AJAN secretariat, on its parts, joins the prison fraternity in Nairobi (Kenya) to celebrate Christmas.
This process of involving the youth in finding solutions, creating awareness, advocacy against issues such as violence, inequalities, combating pandemics, etc. equip young people with important skills to enable them to go through life from an empowered position. We welcome you to read this issue for more details, share it and give us your feedback.