Lilly Rukoro, embracing the Asian skies

WINDHOEK - There has been a lot of complaints about youth unemployment in Namibia and it has become a widely talked about issue. The unemployment rate measures the number of people actively looking for a job as a percentage of the labour force.

According to the Status of the Namibian Economy'' document, Namibia's labour market looks more vulnerable with unemployment increasing over the years and employment decreasing. The working age population has increased by 55 593 new entrants into the labour market. A significant share of the youth population is unemployed at 43.4percent (aged 15-34 years), which is an increase of 4.4 percent from 2014, and almost 12% difference between males and females.

The youth are heavily affected by this as they are the most in the country and are considered the leaders of tomorrow. But as much as we are crying for many unemployed youths in Namibia, and trying to come up with new ways of creating jobs, we ought to be proud of the fact that there are Namibian youths abroad that are working day in and day out to make a living and more importantly to represent the country.

Paheja Siririka (PS) caught up with Lily Rukoro, 27, who is gracing the skies through a foreign airline. She is currently residing in Cyberjaya, Malaysia where she is working for AirAsia X Berhad as a cabin crew member for ten months now. I was amongst a few other Namibians, who were fortunate to have been awarded a scholarship by NSFAF in conjunction a Malaysian tertiary institute (Limkokwing University of Creative Technology) to further my studies. Three years after which I graduated with a Diploma in Multimedia, Advertising and TV Broadcasting, she relates.

Having lived there for six years now, she safely points out that she has overcome or found her way around some of the common challenges faced by foreigners in general but for starters this stereotype where Africans are perceived as a whole (one) regardless of different nationalities, backgrounds/upbringing and individualism. It took a while to break through that stereotype and make known to the locals (Malaysians) that Africa is a continent not a country.

Coming from a country that is pro-freedom of speech (Namibia), in Malaysia freedom of speech is a privilege, not a right and it's not uncommon for people to be arrested for an indiscreet tweet or post, as the government routinely blocks websites deemed critical of the Islamic Law. And, foreigners are not given an opportunity to tap into property investments (legally owning a home), as almost one-third of the land in Malaysia is classed as Local-reserve. So eventually one quickly learns to adapt, continue your hustle, mind your own business and when the well runs dry, pack up and look for opportunities elsewhere (if going back home isn't an option).

For Rukoro home is home, no matter where the struggles of life may take one as she still remembers the road that'll lead her home, be it after accomplishing her goals or she has just had enough of being a foreigner. To be honest, at this point in life, we're all working hard to make a decent living for ourselves and being able to provide for our families, it's just unfortunate that for some, it's easier to build, progress, grow and support the family; while living abroad, judging from the economic state of our beautiful Land of the Brave, especially the unemployment rate among the youth (I'm sure we all know of someone who is unable to secure a job with their degree/masters/PhD's in their pockets).

Sad as this may be Rukoro, however, plans returning home, to plough back into the Mother Land and contribute to the fight against unemployment, poverty, etc. After acquiring the necessary set of skills in the aviation industry, I am hoping to continue being part of the Skyteam but this time for our own national carrier, she says determinedly. Developing a system that solely focuses on Youth Skills Development which correlates to events like World Youth Skills Day, established in 2014 (July 15) by the United Nations, which recognizes the dire need for youth training and skills development, is what she would like to do given the opportunity to implement something to create employment for the youth. Not to frown upon our VTCs (Vocational Training Centers), which are doing an amazing job bridging the gap between skilled and manual labour. We hear from employers who are desperate for workers with the 'right' technical skills for job readiness.

We have a near to flawless education system set up, but can we confidently say the people entrusted in empowering the youth with these 'right skills' are qualified enough, experienced enough to pass on exquisite skills to youth; so as to guarantee that post (tertiary/secondary) education, they will possess the desired technical skills for a job as per employers' demands? She asks about skills-creating institutions. There has to be a balance between academic skills and vocational skills, because a youth with a degree in (e.g.) psychology (academics) might not be able to secure a job right away due to the lack of vocational skills aspect of it (and vice versa). The sooner we realize that the acquisition of vocational skills is as crucially important as academic skills, the easier it'll be to pinpoint other factors that may greatly also contribute to youth unemployment.

In reference to what most people are venturing into these days, entrepreneurship, Rukoro says most youth possess great entrepreneurial skills, but due to lack of something as basic as drawing up a good business proposal to help scout for potential sponsorships from the government (or private sector companies), they easily become a statistic of unemployment with their degrees in their pocket. They have the plan, the vision, but the execution is quickly dampened by lack of knowledge on how to get started as an entrepreneur. Setting up entrepreneurial skills acquisition training centers may create an opportunity for some youth to put to good use their entrepreneurial skills instead of waiting on government hand-outs, as they will be equipped with the right knowledge, how to start, the basics, the way forward and skills on how to milk what they individually have to offer, thus becoming self-employed youth.

It's going to be quite the transition, be prepared to be culture-shocked, exhausted the first couple months and downright homesick, but fret not, embark on your 'overseas' journey with lots of positivity, the spirit of being totally open to the change, knowledge about what you're getting yourself into, a little research about the company, country, currency, people, culture, expats rules and regulations etc; will guarantee for a smooth transition, is Rukoro's advice to fellow youth aspiring to work abroad.

Try to align your choice of employer with your own personal set goals so as to not get caught up in unwanted employment schemes. Be sure to save up extra cash; it might come in handy (remember you're not an E-wallet phone call away from your family to bail you out when you run low on cash), also being wise with your expenses will help you a lot in the long run. Be in constant communication with your (Namibian) embassy delegates in the said country as they will help you navigate easily, she guides, further emphasising the essence of a strong support system home because being far from home has its way of getting to one sometimes, especially when things aren't going according to plan. Never lose focus on why your taking this journey in the first place, as that will always remind you when you lose focus and get caught up in life and its hurdles.

Her further advice to the youth right now is for them not being able to secure a job in the fields they studied. But for her this is alright considering the local economic state, but that doesn't mean one shouldn't try and find other types of jobs either. Remember a jack of all trades is a master of none, but often times better than a master of one, so seize the day, it's clear the government's hand isn't long enough to reach to everyone all at once, so don't sit around and wait for your turn for a free hand-out.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia