The Sunday Mail
The following is President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s address to the Junior Parliament of Zimbabwe at City Sports Centre in Harare yesterday.
I am honoured to be part of this august occasion marking the official opening of the 26th Session of the Junior Parliament.
I commend the organisers of this programme and all stakeholders who continue to make the Junior Parliament the success it has become. This year’s session has renewed significance as it is the first in a new Zimbabwe, a new era.
Thank you for inviting me.
As your listening President, it gives me great joy to be here, to talk with you and listen to you, the young, intelligent and civic minded Junior Parliamentarians, filled with optimism and hope.
Let me begin by congratulating His Excellency, the Junior President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Innocent Chikwanda, and all members of the Junior Parliament on your election into office.
I am informed that all the 210 constituencies are represented here following the successful free, fair, credible and democratic elections for Junior Members of Parliament. In an increasingly individualistic world, the values of service and duty to one’s family, community and nation should be emphasised more than ever before. By joining this noble initiative, you are already exemplifying these beautiful values.
I urge you, therefore, to use this august platform to serve your communities beyond what you believe is possible and eloquently articulate issues that touch the young people of our country to help built the Zimbabwe we want. The young people of Zimbabwe have always been a priority of our Government since 1980. We have laid necessary national, policy and ICBM frameworks to create the enabling environment and opportunities to enhance the rights of young people.
Furthermore, we have over the years, continued to foster youth development, economic emancipation and their meaningful participation in leadership and decision making processes. In this regard, Zimbabwe is a signatory to a number of regional and international treaties and conventions which recognise the roles of youths in our societies.
These include the World Action Plan on Youth, The African Youth Charter, the Sadc Youth Development and Empowerment Strategy and Business Plan (2016-2020) and the Sadc Declaration on Youth Development. In line with Section 20 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, which obligates the Government and all its agencies to take reasonable measures and affirmative action programmes to ensure that youth are provided with education and skills development, economic empowerment, representation and participation, the National Youth Policy is in place.
This provides a guiding framework for youth empowerment in a comprehensive, coordinated and multi-sectorial approach. In addition, my Government has put in place deliberate programmes to invest in the youth in order to unlock their full potential so that they are appropriately skilled for the Zimbabwe of tomorrow which we envisage will be a middle-income country and playing an active part in the global family of nations.
I would like to encourage all learners to take full advantage of the present diversified curriculum at both junior and senior schools to develop and inculcate skills and competencies that will be relevant for the development and advancement of our country now and in the future. Do not shy away from taking up studies in sciences, engineering, and other new technological fields as these are essential in the modernisation and industrialisation of our country.
In the same vein, I exhort schools to play their part by creating environments which encourage innovation, scientific inventions, creativity and entrepreneurship among our young learners.
Our education curriculum and the subjects at the primary and secondary levels must be taught within the context of our present realties. Education to be meaningful must never be taught in the abstract, but must be seen as a vehicle to answer to the opportunities and challenges of a society at any given time.
Thus, right from the lower levels, our education system must have the end in sight, that of providing the adequately skilled young person to appropriately fit in to the various socio- economic sectors of our country. My Government firmly believes in the potential of young people and we are committed to transform the Junior Parliament so that it becomes a national platform where our young people have an opportunity to express and share their hopes, aspirations, experiences and wishes.
Young people are indeed energetic, have a voice, have their unique experiences, wishes, hopes and unique approach to solving some challenges and seeing opportunities. We remain committed to accelerate and facilitate youth development and empowerment, through the creation of synergies between youth, sports, arts and recreation; as this promotes a suitable environment for the youth to network across all sectors and strata of society.
In addition, we will continue to enhance and implement capacity building programmes for youth-led national institutions such as Junior Councils to be able to meaningfully contribute to national developmental agenda.
Meanwhile, I challenge this august gathering to harness these collective attributes and put in place programmes that will enhance the exposure of our Junior Parliamentarians to our broader national economic environment.
Through, for example, the establishment of Junior Parliamentary Portfolio Committees and tours which will allow our young people to be exposed to our national economic policies in agriculture, mining, tourism, infrastructure and energy development, media, health and education among others. I challenge you to shift your horizons and use this platform to enable young people to learn about the broader nation issues so that they are more knowledgeable and better equipped to be part of the solution.
My Government is increasing interaction with the youth so that together, we can work towards the Zimbabwe we want, where we are masters of our destiny. A future where they can realise their full potential, a future bequeathed to them through our hard won freedom and independence. Right across Africa young people have proved their mettle in shaping the future of nations. It is our duty to ensure that they are recognised as active participants in our democracies and developmental programmes and initiatives.
Today we commemorate the Day of the African Child under the theme “Leave No Child Behind for Africa’s Development”.
We remember not only the thousands of young lives lost in South Africa during the apartheid regime but also those young Zimbabwean lives lost during our struggle for independence here at home and across our borders in Mozambique and Zambia. We remember today with solemn reverence, the thousands who were bombed in Nyadzonya, Chimoio, Freedom Camp, Mkushi and several other wartime bases.
These must surely inspire the young people of today to play their own part and help in rebuilding the Zimbabwe bequeathed to them. I encourage young people to be focused, disciplined, humble and resolute and uphold the spirit of ubuntu/hunhu, respect the elderly and work hard.
As we focus on the future, certain issues stand out and Government is prioritising them because the young people have spoken and we have heard them.
Some of these issues have been raised here. We are aware that young people remain concerned by issues relating to child abuse, the disabled, child marriages, access to and affordability of education and health services among many other issues.
My Government is rolling out various programmes and policy interventions to address all these concerns. We are building a better tomorrow for you, our children. My Government stands committed to ensure inclusive development, for children, as we grow, modernise and industrialise our economy in line with our vision 2030.
Children and the youth will remain at the centre stage and indeed the key beneficiaries of our development agenda.
In this regard, the Ministry of Youth, Sports, Arts and Recreation and other stakeholders are concertedly exploring strategies to enhance youth participation in the economy. Youth focal desks created in every Government ministry and departments to produce tangible and practical results for the improvement of standard of living of our young people and to also ensure that the young generation claim their space in every sector of the economy.
Going forward, my Government will now refocus these Youth Desks to ensure that they are in line with the current thinking of the new dispensation and national aspiration as embodied in our Vision 2030. Furthermore, Government is in the process of establishing at least one Vocational Training Centres in every district. The number will be gradually increased with time.
These VTCs will offer vocational skills to secondary school leavers, who for various reasons, are not able to proceed to other institutions of higher learning.
Besides skills development VTCs will create self-employment through enterprise development and facilitate business mentorship and incubation which seek to enhance the sustainability of enterprise run by youth. Meanwhile, the establishment of a youth financial support framework, through empower bank is firmly on course. This is aimed at supporting young people with bankable projects.
In conclusion, I want to urge the youth to shun drug and substance abuse and the negative use if ICTs as these cause social and moral decadence and increase the risk of contracting HIV/Aids.
I encourage you to focus on your school work to realise your dreams and ambitions.
Take time to shape your life with hope and determination, fully convinced that the Government and your parents will do the best to help you achieve your goals.
Take full advantage of the independence, peace and freedom that you enjoy today to achieve much more, than past generations. The new dispensation is about you. You are the future. You are the great hope of our great nation.
Read and study all you can, volunteer to help wherever possible, engage and most of all be involved and learn, absorbing good practices and avoiding the bad.
With these remarks, I wish you all a fruitful, productive and open minded Parliamentary Session.
God bless you all. God bless Zimbabwe. I thank you.