EMPOWER STUDENTS TO TACKLE CLIMATE CHANGE ISSUES

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Atwine Bob a social work student at Kampala Internationale University

By Atwine Bob

Kampala, Uganda – “The youth are the leaders of tomorrow” is the statement that is commonly used by those who are in power or leadership today. In their thinking and meaning of the phrase, our leaders, today have failed to empower the youth who are supposed to take up the mantle of leadership from them, thinking they will do better the next day.

And painfully though, the youth are also ignorantly accepting this notion that they are the leaders of tomorrow, not knowing that when climate change effects ravage our environment, it’s the youth that will pay the price because they have allowed those in power to obstruct them from leadership roles. And it’ll be too late to do a lot.

According to World Bank’s report in 2017, it stated that at least 83% of Uganda’s population is unemployed; implying the same community is still studying in our various institutions of higher learning or just plainly unemployed. These statistics did not even consider those who are underemployed.

Yet these students have not been empowered on how to curb the emerging issues brought by Climate Change. True, Uganda may have good policies to mitigate the problems of climate change, but as a country, we need to engage academic institutions to utilise the available workforce to help the country spread the information to the public on how we can mitigate climate change effect.

Many times, Ugandans have apportioned blame to the government forgetting that the onus is upon us as responsible citizens too to carry the mantle of sensitising our people to work hard to ensure that we mitigate the causes and effects of climate change.

Why do I have to say so? It is because the Government has in its own right provided academic institutions in our country with an enabling environment under which they must now play a crucial role by empowering the youth who mostly constitute the vast number of students.

I’ve seen many students mostly in Kampala International University (KIU), willing to engage themselves on issues of fighting climate change through sensitising the communities and even planting trees around the surrounding villages but they are incapacitated. However, if institutions give a hand, this means we would achieve a lot as a country.

The reasons as to why the Government and various institutions need to involve the youth in the fight against issues of climate change is because climate change poses critical global challenges in our days. And if not well curbed it will be disastrous to the generations to come. The young people who constitute most of the world’s population are paramount in tackling the effects of climate change.

Fact: In Uganda, 73% are youths below the age of 30years.

I want to say this, and it’s for the fact that: “Those heading international organisations and the local leaders shall never go far in curbing effects of climate change unless they engage the young people in a meaningful way.”

In Uganda, it has creative young people that we have creative young people and this means that our youth are so invaluable in the search for innovative solutions to climate change. So let’s empower them before we are doomed.

I want to appreciate Oxfam for they have engaged at least a sizable number of institutions with the aim of mitigating issues of climate change in the country and this must be applauded.

Academic institutions can now come in to help through empowering these youths who are their students. Once young people are allowed, they can exert pressure on various business companies to act responsibly, and also since the youth are the majority of voters in Uganda, they have the power to make our politicians pay attention to issues of climate change.

The other day, it took a 15-year old Swedish teenager by the name Greta Thunberg to skip her school to go on a school protest for the climate outside the Swedish parliamentary building. 

Her parents attempted to stop her from doing that. Equally, her schoolmates declined to take a role in what she did while passersby expressed pity and bemusement at the sight of the then-unknown 15-year-old girl sitting on the cobblestones with a hand-painted banner. 

The girl is feted across the globe as a model of determination, inspiration and affirmative action. How many countries and the global organisations are picking courage out of this teenager’s bravery.

In this way, even we, the young Ugandans can do the same, and the whole country will emulate us and follow what we want them to do. We need to educate our people about their rights to protect the environment, highlighting the importance of legal literacy programmes in our institutions. So that people are aware that the moment one does this, they will be penalised.

Though Oxfam and other donor-funded organizations have so far made some progress, Government to has to come in through law enforcement, while institutions of higher learning will encourage and guide students for further action.

The younger generation should stand up to be counted productive leaders and not wait for the next day in the decision-making process. This can be done by providing an insight into what the leaders should do and not just sit back and watch, without lending their voice where there is a need to do so.

When the youth excel, everyone benefits the youth themselves, children and the aged, the communities that they live in, and the economies to which they contribute their effort. With the right leaders, Uganda must invest more in the young generation – the youth. 

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