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Unemployment Causes Depression & Alcohol Abuse

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Rosemary Mwende says that she has been searching for a job for two years in vain. She trained as a Human Resources Manager but cannot get a job. She says, I’m so stressed that I’m worried she may develop hypertension.” Her parents have urged her to go back to school and add onto her education but she is not willing to because she fears she might not get a job despite all the effort. She says that she has lost hope in life and fears that she may have to work as a house help just to earn some money. She says that this is the only way to restore her dignity and eliminate that feeling of helplessness and frustration due to lack of money. She says that many are times when she has almost committed suicide but has chosen to hold onto life.

Unemployment in Kenya has now become something that can be compared to a national disaster.  Most youths in Kenya are unemployed but are well trained with degrees and diplomas to match.  Statistics indicate that the number of jobless trained youths stands at about 2.3 million.  This translates to 2.3 million Kenyans who are not only frustrated but also idle after they were trained. The total number of unemployed is higher when one also considers those who did not go to high school of did not get any training after high school. Estimates say 40% of persons who can work are unemployed or underemployed.  

With the increase in the number of universities, colleges, technical schools offering all manner of courses, every year, almost 500,000 young Kenyans graduate and enter the job market in search of employment.  Most of them have been taught that once one goes through the system and graduate, then they should enter the job market, seek for a job and gain employment. With this firmly set in their minds, they seek out “white collar jobs,” called so for one expects not to sweat and the collar will be clean and white. The jobs are not available with new technologies like Email. When they fail to get jobs, they sit around idly waiting for a miracle to happen.

It is this frustration of unemployment and lack of creativity and capital to be self employed making them self reliant that is driving most youths into alcoholism.  Most youths and especially young men are engaging in taking alcohol and drug abuse from as young as 12 years when they leave primary school and can’t get a high school place. The sad part is that they do this from as early as 7.00am in the morning up to the late hours of the night. Many cannot afford to buy brown beer since it is too expensive and therefore end up taking illicit brews and spirits that harm their bodies and reduce them into walking zombies.  

To be able to afford the illicit brews that cost only Kshs.10 is also a problem hence they are forced to engage in crime in order to raise the money for the brew.  They engage in petty crime like stealing livestock, household items and eventually graduate to hardcore criminals who rob banks and institutions as a way of life. The most worrying trend right now is that Police reports show involvement in violent crime by youth just entering their teens from as young as 14 years. These young men even own and know how to use weapons such as guns and explosives like grenades. 

This problem of unemployment has also affected married men negatively.  Cases of men being battered by their wives are now on the increase.  Research indicates that most of these men are beaten due to them spending all their time drinking and coming home with no food for the family yet they expect to eat.  These men are no longer bread winners and have also been accused of not catering for their wives conjugal needs which they are unable to perform anyway due to their bodies being wasted by the illicit brews.  The men in their defense say that since they have no jobs and they cannot stand the constant nagging from their wives to provide, the only way to contain their stress levels is to drink in order to forget the problems.

Talking to unemployed youths in Nairobi paints this picture better.  Simon Njenga is a graduate from Maseno University.  He did business management and graduated with a second class honors four years ago.  He says that he has been searching for a job in vain and wonders what will happen to him.  He says that the more time passes the more worried he gets since the years he requires as experience to get a job keep passing him by.  In his frustration he says that he has become a serious alcoholic and the only way he can go through a day is when he is intoxicated.  He says that he cannot do business because he does not know how and even if he did, he would drink all his profits away and then the business would go down.  He does not wish to get a low ranking job like that of a cleaner or a clerk because he says he did not earn a degree to work as a cleaner.

A trend is also emerging where Kenyan employers now prefer graduates from private universities to public ones.  The research conducted by Moi University’s School of Education notes that graduates from private universities are more competent and exude high personal confidence as opposed to their counterparts in the public universities.  Dennis Oluoch is a graduate of Jomo Kenyatta University having specialized in IT.  He says that this is a problem he has noted since the first time he went for a job interview, he was told that the organization prefers graduates from private universities due to their level of discipline.  He says that it was made very clear to him that graduates from public universities are very aggressive and indisciplined considering the number of strikes and destruction of property they engage in.  This, he says is a problem because most graduates who come from public universities are from poor backgrounds.  This increases the level of unemployment, hence crime and abuse of alcohol and drugs also goes up.

The jubilee government promised to create a million jobs raising the hope of many youths. If this promise can come to fruition, then many idle and frustrated youths would get off the streets and become useful members of society.


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