News / Africa

Algeria's Large Youth Population Has Few Opportunities

Young Algerians on Rue Didouche Mourad
Young Algerians on Rue Didouche Mourad

Walk down Rue Didouche Mourad - a bustling auto route lined with colonial-era buildings that winds its way toward the Algiers port - and this is what you will see: groups of children heading home from school; young girls, some with headscarves, others bareheaded, mobile phones glued to their ears; young men hanging out in cafes; a street population that is overwhelmingly young.

This is the face of Algeria. Seven out of 10 people in this North African country are less than 25 years old. These youths should be the country's wealth. But are they?

No, says Imad Boubekri, youth coordinator for the Algerian League for the Defense of Human Rights. At least, that is not the way they are seen.

Boubekri says few jobs are available for young Algerians. There is a collective anguish among the youth population here, sparking a string of self-immolations mirroring neighboring Tunisia, where the death of a young man who set himself on fire triggered a powerful revolt that toppled the country's longtime president.

But while there was rioting over high food prices in January and an ongoing series of scattered protests for disparate causes, young people here have failed to catalyze - much less lead - the kinds of national revolts against authoritarian governments witnessed in other Arab countries.

Riot police blocking a teachers strike for better benefits in Algiers
Riot police blocking a teachers strike for better benefits in Algiers

Consider a protest last weekend in Algiers by part-time school teachers demanding benefits. Mohammed Shekalel, a teacher in his late '20s who works at a school about 80 kilometers away, was among them. The protest, he said, had nothing to do with demands for political reform.

"We don't speak about politics because we don't belong to any political party. We [want] our rights concerning our jobs," said Shekalel.

Algerian students have also been protesting in front of the education ministry to demand a better recognition of their university diplomas. But again, their calls have yet to gain a political edge.

Still, youth activist Boubekri believes it is only a question of time.

Boubekri says Algeria's economic, political and social situation is very precarious. He has no doubt it will lead to a social explosion.

Boubekri was among the organizers of a youth march announced on the Internet social network Facebook last weekend aimed to demand major political reforms. Only a few dozen young people showed up, and every time they tried to gather police broke them up.

Unlike neighboring Tunisia, where Cyberspace helped drive the political revolt, the Internet has failed to galvanize the youth here.

On Didouche Mourade street, 16-year-old Ilias Fouial says he is not interested in participating in the political protests.

Ilias says that is the opposition party. His friends are not involved with that.

Is he interested in politics?

Not really, Ilias says. He is interested in sports.

That is not to say that youths have not been key members of anti-government protests that have rippled across the country in recent weeks.

But youth leader Boubekri says Algeria has one striking characteristic that other protest-roiled Arab countries do not have; the fallout of a bloody civil war in the 1990s that killed upwards of 100,000 people and continues to traumatize Algerians. It has put political militancy on hold.

But today, says Said Saadi, head of the opposition RDC party, a whole new generation of young people is growing up with little memory of the 1990s conflict.

Still, Saadi says, these young people remain barred from any kind of political participation. Young people are not going to mobilize if they do not get help and training - if there is no political dynamic to motivate them.

Communications Minister Nacer Mahel describes a series of measures the government is introducing to improve opportunities for Algeria's youth. They include incentives to get young people into farming and to start their own businesses.

Mahel says the government is aware it needs to establish better lines of communication with young people and get them involved in the political process.

Youth activist Boubekri is also planning to get young people more involved politically. He outlines plans to get youth mobilized, neighborhood by neighborhood.

Boubekri says political activists like himself are telling young people not to listen to the political establishment.  He says it is up to them to change Algeria and they need to follow their convictions.

You May Like

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. More

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

Dropout rate at an all-time high in South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during 3-year civil war More

Tennessee Songbirds Fly Coop Long Before Tornadoes Arrive

Researchers say birds apparently alerted to danger by sounds at frequencies below range of human hearing More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportionali
X
Aru Pande
December 19, 2014 1:45 AM
The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video US: Response to Sony Hack Will Be Proportional

The White House says President Barack Obama considers the cyberattack on Sony Corp. a serious national security matter and that the U.S. will counter with an "appropriate response." VOA correspondent Aru Pande reports.
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid