I learned a new word recently: “Waithood”; the bewildering time in which increasingly large numbers of young people are spending their best years waiting. They’ve completed school, but haven’t been able to find a job; they feel like they should have moved out of their parents’ house, but they’re still stuck in their childhood bedrooms; they know they should have the world at their feet, but they have no money, no achievable ambitions, no direction.
Waithood is a difficult and unpleasant period in life. It is a phase in which the difficulties young people face result in a debilitating state of helplessness and dependency. It is contributing to a frustration that can lead to civil unrest, anti-social behaviour and, at worst, violence from those that feel isolated from society, their nation and their local communities.
In West Africa, the term youthman is commonly used to refer to people who have not attained social adulthood despite their biological adulthood. The lyrics of a popular song from Sierra Leone lament the conditions of a youthman’s life.
I feel sorry for the youthman today
The system is bad for the youthman today
Every day and every night they suffer
The youthman want to sleep but no place
The youthman want to eat but no food
The youthman want good dress but no good dress
The youthman want to buy but no money
The youthman want to work
If no work, how do you expect him to eat?
I’ve written in the past about how non-formal education can help prepare young people for employment. But what happens if there is no employment available?
We know that taking part in activities such as sport, community service, adventure and learning new skills, develops, amongst other things, resilience, determination and adaptability.
Could non-formal education’s development of skills, behaviours and attitudes also contribute towards developing a desire for entrepreneurship?
Could taking part in non-formal educational activity help young people construct a positive identity for themselves, help them cope with waithood – and help them prepare for making a constructive contribution to adult life in an uncertain world?
I rather think it could…