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This study was carried out to investigate strategies for effective implementation of youth empowerment programmes in Abia State, Nigeria. To carry out the study, four research questions were posed. The study adopted a descriptive survey design. The study was done in Abia North Senatorial District, Abia State. The population of the study comprised of all the youth working with youth led-organizations in Abia State. The population size of the study was 150. The instrument for data collection in this study was structured questionnaire titled: Strategies for Effective Implementation of Youth Empowerment Programme Questionnaire (SEIYEP). Data collected were analyzed using mean scores and standard deviation. The major findings of the study disclosed that motivational strategies for effective implementation of youth empowerment programmes in Abia State include; adequate remuneration of trainers, disbursement of long and short term loans, bursary scheme for youth’s educational empowerment, sharing of sewing machines among others. Supervisory strategies for effective implementation of youth empowerment programmes in Abia State among others include; provision of adequate supervision task force for youth empowerment programmes and preparation of guidelines for reporting youth empowerment training activities. Managerial strategies for effective implementation of youth empowerment programmes in Abia state among others include; development of scopes and sequence of the training programmes, provision of curriculum for youth empowerment programme and proper adherence to the curriculum contents of youth empowerment programme. The policy strategies for effective implementation of youth empowerment programmes in Abia State include; promulgation of decree for compulsory youth empowerment training programmes and centres, adoption of youth oriented policies in the state and formulation of decree for formal entrepreneurship training programmes in institutions. Based on the findings of the study, recommendations were made among which are: youth empowerment programmes should be introduced in the curriculum programmes in the institutions of higher learning, post-Primary schools should put in efforts in teaching vocational education and skills acquisition programmes in their various school to enable every Nigerian child to be self-reliant, self-developed and creative, Federal, State, and Local Government should investigate, monitor, supervisor and evaluate all skills acquisitions centres established, run and funds by the government and Nigerian Corpers (NYSC) serving in education sectors should use their nine months training to learn the act of teaching and use the remaining three months to do teaching practice, to enable them get equipped and learn teaching skills for self developed.
Background of the Study
Youth is a period of transition from the dependency of childhood to independency of adulthood. At this period adulthood awareness of interdependence as a member of a community is created. Youth also constitutes the backbone and the future of any nation. The progress and future development of any nation depends to a large extent on the youth. This is why most nations have concreted empowerment programmes for their youths. According to the United Nations (2008) youth is defined as anyone between the ages of 15 and 24years. Federal Government of Nigeria (2001) maintained that a person who is aged between 16 and 20 years is a youth. Nevertheless, most of the definitions of youth cited, point to a stage between adolescent and adulthood. Ejiogu (2001) youth is a young person between childhood and adulthood. From the above, it is clear that the definition of youth is relatively subjective, and the transition from one stage to another will vary, therefore sticking to one age bracket can be misleading and thus in every context it is important to outline what is meant by the term youth.
It is also helpful to add that progressive-mindedness is one of the defining characteristics of youth. Therefore, the current thinking is that people beyond
the age of 36 who share the ideals of a progressive society are also considered as youths (Uwakwe, 2014). Whatever the age limit, youths are men and women considered to be young, energetic, vibrant and resourceful, who are often engaged in social enterprises that require physical strength and mental capacity (Suleiman, 2006). In Africa, like most developing countries, a person is regarded as a youth when the individual reaches the age which is generally referred to as the age of maturity (Ejiogu, 2001). Youth are the most exuberant, the sharpest in memory, the most talented, the most innovative and the healthiest in most societies. These qualities have made them the most potent resource without which a society is lifeless. For the purpose of this study, the researcher will utilize the age bracket of 18 – 35years to define youth, stressing that this category represents the most active, volatile, and yet the most vulnerable segment of the population. Since youths are considered to be young, energetic, vibrant and resourceful, they need to be empowered for the future development and progress of the nation.
Empowerment refers to the activity of teaching, educating, training, and imparting knowledge, ideas, and relevant skills to the youth both within the formal and informal education system to enable them fully participate in development of society. This view has been supported by Nagia (2015) which set target for the achievement of education for all youth and children. As people
experience increased power of choice, an increased power in control of their lives happen simultaneously (Muluka, 2012). The concept of empowerment is based on consistent tendencies of sustainable support mechanisms. This may be the reason why Salami (2013) opined that empowerment is a means of assisting people to overcome obstacles which might prevent them from achieving their potentials. The need to empower arises from the inability of an individual or a group of people to actualize their dreams and reach their greatest potential due to artificial barriers created by individuals and other groups within the same society. Empowerment is widely used in social work and targeted at including people in decision making processes in their communities and raising their level of confidence in life (Fitzsimons, Hope, Cooper & Russell, 2011). Empowerment according to Mpofu & Indabawa (2004) is a process of enhancing feelings of self-efficiency in communities through identification and removal of conditions that reinforce powerlessness. The authors further explained that empowerment has to do with the ability people have to take for an effective control of their lives in terms of being well informed and equipped with regards to education and finance.
This will enable them to pursue careers they desire and to achieve the goals set by them. Also, empowerment here seeks to oppose oppression and marginalization; it can be viewed as a process of increasing interpersonal, socio-
economic or political power so that individuals can take action to improve their life situation which will result to youth empowerment.
Youth Empowerment according to Valrus and Fletcher (2006) is an attitudinal, structural and cultural process whereby young people gain ability, authority and agency to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of other people including adults. Olajire and Komolafe (2013) stated that youths are empowered when they acknowledge that they have or can create choices of life, and are aware of the implications of these choices, make an informed decision and accept responsibility for the consequences of those actions. Muluka (2012) sees youth empowerment as an attitudinal, structural, and cultural process whereby young people derive the ability, willingness, readiness and authority to make decisions and implement positive change in their own lives and to the intended beneficiaries around them. According to Fletcher (2005), youth empowerment means creating and supporting the enabling conditions under which young people can act on their own behalf, and on their own terms, rather than at the direction of others. It simply means assisting the youth to overcome the difficulties which might prevent them from achieving their potentials. Omotere (2011) defined youth empowerment as a process whereby young people gain the ability and authority to make decisions and implement change in their own lives. The author further
explained that youth empowerment can be exercised at homes, schools, through youth organizations, Non Governmental Organizations, government policy-making, and community organizing campaigns. It ranges from economic empowerment to social, ideological, educational, technological and political empowerment which leads to manpower development.
For the purpose of this study, the researcher therefore defined youth empowerment as the means through which the young people are encouraged by individual, non-governmental organizations or government using any good means. The “good means” here can be financially, skillfully, morally or any other means. Consequently, the government and non-governmental organization (NGOs) have established empowerment programmes for youths.
Empowerment programmes refers to the systematic, planned and organized programmes intended to improve the life of individuals or a group through the provisions of knowledge and relevant skills that would enhance their competence to accomplish the tasks which the education program required or aimed at; (Mpofu & Indabawa, 2006). They emphasized the need for community participation in the determination of their educational needs, therefore help to form the basis of appropriateness of the youth (Mpofu, 2006). Through empowerment programmes, the youth can be greatly extending the acquired skills to other intended beneficiaries in their various communities
where they live. It can as well enable them to work and do some developmental activities for the betterment of their families and give way for upcoming young ones.
Empowerment Programmes can be defined as a process which enables individuals to access collective power, authority and to employ strength engaging through other people, institutions or society (Conger & Kamingo, 1988). According to the authors, Empowerment programmes is not just to empower people because some of them have already acquired the skills while some have the wealth of knowledge and motivation, to do their jobs efficiently. To them, they are of the view that empowerment is letting this power out. Zimmerman (2000) defined empowerment programmes as those programmes that encourage people to gain the relevant skills and knowledge that will allow them to overcome obstacles in their life or work environment and ultimately. From the author’s view, empowerment programmes can help individuals to develop skills within themselves or in the society. For the purpose of this study, the researcher views empowerment programmes as an intervention that is regularly involve young people as partners and participants in the decision-making processes that determine programme goals, planning and/or implementation and assessment.
It is also clear that even though there are different perspectives to empowerment programmes, there is a general consensus that empowerment programmes will lead to good change manifested in increased capacity of people to have control over relevant skills, intellectual resources and ideology; and obtain physical necessities of life (food, clothing & shelter), employment, equality, participation in government, political and economic independence, adequate education, sustainable development and peacekeeping. In other words, it is an intervention that regularly involves young people as partners and participants in the decision-making processes that determine programme design, planning, or implementation. With the support of caring adults, youth empowerment Programmes engage young people in programmes leadership as a characteristic of their involvement in safe, positive, and structured activities.
There are various forms of youth empowerment programmes that aim at creating opportunity for young people in their various fields of specialization as well as in their communities as a whole. Studies conducted by National Youth Policy (2009) and Uzochukwu (2013) identify some forms of youth empowerment programmes functioning in harnessing the potentials and talents of young people, such as: Poverty Eradication Programmes, Good Education Empowerment Programmes; Entrepreneurship Training Programmes and Advance Technological Development Programmes. Various communities
currently have a great number of youth and each community needs to improve their way of life so as to give hope to the coming generations. The two processes of empowerment and development programmes are interconnected and might not be possible to implement one without the other aspect respectively (Curtin, 2004).
It is worthy of note that the means of empowering the youth does not only involve the government agencies alone rather it includes Non Governmental Organizations (NGOs), Private Agencies, Educational Institutions, Intergovernmental Organizations, Public Sectors, Family Sponsors, and Civil Society Organizations. These above mentioned bodies have been cited as Key indicators or Key Stakeholders of Youth Empowerment Programmes (Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment, 2007). According to Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment (2007-2015) empowering young people with programmes such bursary scheme for youths educational empowerment among others mean creating and supporting the enabling conditions under which young people can act on their own behalf, and on their own terms, rather than at the direction of others. These enabling conditions fall into four broad categories: an economic and social base; political will, adequate resource allocation and supportive legal and administrative
frameworks; a stable environment of equality, peace and democracy; and access to knowledge, information and skills, and a positive value system.
There are types of youth empowerment programmes suggested by Uzochukwu (2014) which can be useful to redress and restructure the constraints to youth unemployment and above all to reduce over dependency of young graduates on white-collar job, such as: financial youth empowerment, skills acquisition programmes, academic empowerment programmes, and Agricultural youth empowerment. The above author further explained that youth empowerment is necessary to both nations and the world at large. The author also opined that with youth empowerment, the future prosperity of a nation is secured. That means the youths are the people that will take care of many offices and functions in the country.
Some other youth empowerment programmes as highlighted by Mike
(2014), include: poverty eradication progrmmes which can help reduce the poverty standard of any nation, good standard education, good governance and increase in standard advanced technology of a nation. Buttressing further, the authour noted that, all of the above indicate that there is no nation that can exist without empowering their youths. This is so because the youths of today are elders of tomorrow. On the other hand, it is important to note that youth
empowerment programmes is every body's function both government and non-governmental organizations.
Some states have taken bold steps by creating opportunities for youth empowerment programmes, establish and invest on Vocational Training Skills programmes, Agricultural Empowerment Programmes, Skills Acquisition Programmes, Mass Literacy Education Programmes and Poverty Alleviation Programmes have been carried out in other states of the federation as a means of lifelong self-development Programmes. There are critically important to reduce and to eradicate the level of crime, drug abuses, rural-to-urban migration, hawking, youth violence, over dependency on government recourses, white-collar jobs and above all unwanted pregnancies among under age females across the state. These include; Delta State which has taking step towards youth empowerment, self-employment and many other laudable initiatives such as: Youth Empowerment through Agriculture (YETA) Programmes, Farmers’ Support Programme (FSP), and the Micro-Credit Scheme, which has earned the state several honours and awards within a relatively short period of implementation (Delta State Ministry of Youth Development, 2014). Others include: Youth Empowerment Programmes through Taraba State Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (STEEDS) and Youth Empowerment
Programmes through National Economic Empowerment and Development Strategy (NEEDS) (Omotere, 2011).
United Nations (2010); Africa Commission (2009); Commonwealth Secretariat (2007) and World Bank (2007) documented the following as the major objectives why youth empowerment programmes must be executed and implemented across the globe, there are:
• To enable the youths gain understanding of the success and challenges of implementing policies on the ground, particularly for policy development and implementation of youth empowerment programmes;
• To recruit, train and support young people to be effective researchers;
• To mobilize young people to help strengthen youth-related policy formulation;
• To build the capacities of governments, non-governmental and civil society and private-sector organizations to ensure
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