Over time, there is controversy about the youth and who they are, according to different definitions and statutes to which Uganda is a signatory.
Uganda uses two different categorizations for youths. The National Youth Council Act classifies youths as individuals aged 18-30 years and, the revised National Youth policy uses 15-30 years. The Commonwealth identifies young people aged 15-29 years as youths. In contrast, the East African Community (EAC) defines youths as those between 15 and 35 years.
According to the African Union Youth Charter, young people refer to every person between the ages of 15-35 years. The definition of youths perhaps changes with circumstances, especially with the changes in demographic, financial, economic, and socio-cultural settings; however, the definition that uses the 15- 24 age cohort as youths fairly serves its statistical purposes for assessing the needs of the young people and providing guidelines.
The UN Secretary-General first referred to the current definition of youths in 1981 in his report to the General Assembly on International Youth Day and endorsed it. However, in both reports, the Secretary-General also recognized that, apart from that statistical definition, the meaning of the term ‘youth’ varies in different societies around the world.
Several UN entities, instruments, and regional organizations have somewhat different definitions of youth, which the United Nations Secretariat recognizes. Uganda has the second youngest population in the world. More than three-quarters (78 per cent) of its citizens are below the age of 35, and this youthful population is projected to double in the next 25 years.
However, this connotation doesn’t segment the real number of youths since it involves adolescents and children who are actually over 30 per cent out of the talked about 78 per cent.
From the above findings, it is clear that Uganda follows the description of the United Nation’s Youth policy and leaves out the descriptions of the African Union and East African Community. The youth age bracket debate has left many lingering, especially during the National Youth Council elections and political party elections, as many end up changing their age to meet the age requirements.
There is no universally-agreed international definition of the youth age group. For statistical purposes, however, the United Nations without prejudice to any other definitions made by member states defines ‘youths’ as those persons between the ages of 15 and 24 years.
According to developmental theorist Erik Erikson, youth ends at 40 years old. Considering that the average life expectancy today is in the 80s, it makes sense to have that as the start of middle age. In many cases in Canada, the term youth is used in a loose manner and does not really get applied to one specific age group.
Some will refer to a young adult as a youth. It is hard to define when one leaves what is considered as childhood and enters the phase of youth before they transition into adulthood.
A more modern way of thinking about this is to be able to define youth by their characteristics as opposed to their actual age. Coming of age has always been defined by age because there is a lot of commonality within specific age groups.
It is important not to forget that 23 per cent of Uganda’s population of over 46 million is comprised of youths between the ages of 18 and 30 years, one wonders who accommodates those between the ages of 30-35, well aware that all the Government programs target those between 18-30.
The writer is a communication and knowledge management specialist