Kenya can be described as a country with “youth bulge” where the dominant age group is between 15-29 years; most of whom are without jobs, angry and vulnerable to delinquent behavior and violence. This was evident during the disputed 2007 election where widespread violence was witnessed. Many factors have contributed to this, including the education system which has a high wastage rate that sees 500,000 youth enter the saturated job market every year at different levels.
Employment opportunities in the formal sector remain scarce and are pegged to academic qualifications while in the informal sector a wide variety of untapped opportunities for the youth are still available. On the other hand, the youth have proved beyond any reasonable doubt that they can be talented, innovative, and creative.
“Talent Academies” is in an initiative that seeks to engage and challenge the adolescents and youths through an innovative approach that taps into their talent in order to boost their opportunities and self confidence for improved livelihoods, in line with aspirations and possibly the needs of the communities in which they live. Strong interest has been expressed in the initiative because of its relevance for the Kenyan context but there is need to support its piloting so as to help learn lessons and generate more guidance for its wider use in the country. The Talent Academy will provide an opportunity and a challenge to identify the talents and nurture them to a successful conclusion.
Focus on youth
The Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports proposed a research on issues affecting the youth in Kenya. This research was sponsored by UNICEF. The youth collected data countrywide from among themselves and the findings were compiled in the National Youth Situation Analysis report (2009). Where the youth indicated that they had talents but had no opportunity to expose or market them. It is this regard the government through Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports sought support from UNICEF in establishing Talent Academies through which young people in Kenya would be educated and trained. The main thrust of establishing Talent Academies was to select young people who would access to an education and some training on the basis of their talent rather than years of schooling or certificates they may have (raw, hidden e.t.c)
The Talent Academy is based on three underlying principles of
- Aspiration, and
which are drawn from best practices from similar initiatives by UNICEF in other countries in Africa. This starts with deficit model by which young people are selected or admitted to these programmes on the basis that they have not completed school or do not have certificates for employment, e.t.c For many of this young people this may be the first time that anyone acknowledges or recognizes whatever talent the may have.
The National Youth Talent Academy will operate with aspirations for young people that involve the best that the world has to offer in their field .In the Field of Music and Dance for instance, the aspiration will be to break into the market in Europe, North America and Africa, with African inspired Music and Dances from genre. This is not guaranteed to happen, but it is what young people in these Talent Academies will be encouraged and trained to aspire towards. The challenge to young people then becomes for them to stop feeling aggrieved as victims, and start aspiring to be the best in a field for which they have some talent. The National Youth Talent Academy will be realistic about the short comings of the talented youths selected for each programme. Someone may have great talent and potential in sports, but may also lack a basic education in reading, writing and mathematics or in basic science. These elements will be provided in an appropriate manner as part of the course in the field for which these young talents are being trained. In the same way, the Talent Academy will deal with the need for strong entrepreneurial and marketing skills to break into global markets, by offering the best resource people and organizations to train and mentor young talent. Similarly, the Talent Academy will acknowledge the need for young people to cope with their present lives while they seek to develop their talent further. They will be provided with survival packages that may include as well as skills relating to family life, and Life skills, food health practices, nutrition, HIV/AIDS prevention, e.t.c
This programme targets the out of school youth who are vulnerable. The pilot program started on 11th March 2010 and is ongoing at the Moi International Sports Center, Kasarani.