Two-time UK prime minister Benjamin Disraeli (1804–1881) wrote his first fiction story at the age of fifteen, kicking off a lifelong career that gave the world lots of works, none of which yours truly, unlike historian Dr. Kit Kowol, has ever chanced to read. Kowol describes ‘Dizzy’ as a writer ‘who led his country like a character in one of his novels’ and is indiscreet enough to tell whoever cares to visit his website that the Jewish UK premier blew away a fortune at the age of 20 by gambling on the stock exchange and ended up so indebted that he sought refuge in politics (since MPs were immune to being arrested for debt)! But for me Dizzy’s misreckoning as a gambler was made good decades later when he sagely declared that the youth of a nation are the trustees of posterity.

We often hear that a lot of potential is concentrated in the young flesh. What we rarely hear is the fact that the said potential is actually the ability to do either good or bad, depending on the stimulus. For instance, even if you are a worse gambler than Benjamin, you will most likely put your money on a young person finishing ahead of the fastest grizzled human being in a race. And still, should you ever find yourself in ‘need’ of a force to overthrow the government or advance jihadist agenda, the youth will be the sprogs of choice. That about gives a foreword to a mixed blessing that is youth potential. Wherever terrorist activities and insurgencies occur, the sheer number of the youth involved, as fighters and opportunistic criminals, is pronounced. It is usually the marginalized and vulnerable  youth dwelling in the sewers of unemployment and destitution that are desperate and disgruntled enough to be radicalized or willfully offer themselves to criminality. Whereas the higher proportion of these is usually male, the role of females in war and conflict cannot be ignored. Terrorism and war (and human trafficking, I remember) are perhaps at the tip of the spear’s tongue; robbery, murder, drug abuse and rape are even more rife in every seemingly stable society and they can all be safely tied back to the vulnerability of the young people.

So… How do we harness the good potential? A seemingly easy question that often makes world leaders sweat through the nails. Whereas efforts to address unemployment and bestow financial independence through education and career guidance have been encouraged, they are still as feeble as the gaps are wide. Not least because the problem has been poorly diagnosed. Policy makers think sending more children to school is the panacea, yet the despair that comes with graduating into joblessness qualifies the well meant efforts as medicine worse than the problem. Staying failed education systems maintains the dire mismatch between labour market requirements and the quality of education received. The countless numbers churned out every year into the saturated job market pose an increasing threat to security. Well-tailored vocational training fused with technological expertise and ICT on the other hand would lessen the unemployment freight. What further paralyzes the efforts to guide young people towards employment and financial independence, especially in developing countries where 89% of the world’s young people stay, is the low commitment manifested by rampant swindling of funds, with public servants and politicians of untameable appetites secreting or misappropriating funds meant for poverty alleviation projects.

To whom it may concern; regarding youth potent, any nation is presented with two choices for even a poor wager like  Benjamin Disraeli to choose from. The payoffs and consequences are not unknown.