On July 1st, 1960, the first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah delivered a very emphatic speech rallying all the citizenry on the land to work hard to ensure a prosperous nation. He exhorted everyone to get on board, in his own words “to develop our country to meet the needs of our people so that the ordinary man and woman may be well fed, well clothed and well housed. We must operate a planned economy for use and abundance.” Lofty ideals of our founding father.
What is interesting for me in that speech is how he underscored the importance of the youth and the role of literacy in his call towards action to a great nation. He began his speech by telling a short account of his arrival and how he set off to work. He said “……. what was needed was the right type of leadership which could properly channel the forces of nationalism to obtain the best results.” I wasted no time at all in getting down to work. The mobilization of the youth was my first concern and, difficult as it was, the plunge was taken with a dedication of energy and idealism.”
Now that is the focus of our piece today, the youth. It is a sector that is not given serious attention in Ghana. We have failed as a nation in any matter of seriousness in the world. We cannot afford to lose the future. We cannot afford to let the next generation of Ghanaians trail in development and advancement against other nations. We need to make a conscious effort to develop our youth. We have a lot of work to do. So, in our own small ways, we've got to fire the youth up. One important way I believe could help us in churning out giants in industry and win in the future is to develop the literacy capacity of the youth. This is something we should not compromise on. Kwame Nkrumah summed up my mind clearly when he stated in that speech that “we must fight; relentlessly to uproot backward conceptions and negative phenomena in order to eliminate waste, extravagance, bureaucracy, laziness and similar manifestations harmful to our community. We must eliminate illiteracy completely from our midst.”
The first and most important thing I believe we can give to our youth is to make them have a giant belief that they were born to make some significant impact in society. And to understand that no matter where they come from, they can still achieve greatness! They should have giant dreams that scares them as they move through the flow of life. The youth in the country (especially in the slums and ghettoes) should see themselves as elements of greatness and mirror to the young ones who will look to them and say, “if this guy has done it, then I can also do it”! That’s all! We should drum into the skulls of our youth that they’re not insignificant. And that there’s a whole universe that is deeply contained in them.
Another thing we should constantly remind our youth is the path of education. Education, someone described it “as the passport to the future.” We should keep reminding them that reading is a call to civilization, it is a call to development, on the individual, communal and national level. It is the path and gateway to greatness. It's simple; ignorance can never defeat knowledge. And you gain knowledge by reading. So, the more the youth read, the more confident they become in their abilities. Reading makes you fearless. Whenever you see fear, then it means someone didn't do his homework well. We must keep reminding them of that. Our youth must make it a point to be counted among the most well-informed people in the world. That will push them to read what most people do not read. It will make them stay ahead always and they will gain the respect of people on issues. They should be made to know that reading dispels fears in you. When you read wide, you might still have some fears but surely not serious ones. You get the guts to tackle big things. You become fearless. You become ready to make mistakes and learn from them because when you read biographies and memoirs, you study how people how people have overcome their fears and draw great insight from that.
As a nation, we have many problems and challenges facing the teeming youth in the slums and ghettoes of our country. The issue includes bad parental practices and family issues unto the community and national level. The main problem is the inability of duty-bearers and community leaders to develop a comprehensive development program where young people will receive some form of mentoring and counselling about their career choices. Most of the youth who have gone wayward in our communities should not be entirely blamed. The light you see is the light you appreciate. If young people are raised in the kind of environment in many communities in Ghana, then we will continue to get what we've been getting out of these communities. Very few young people in these communities have some form of direction because of a relative who has seen some bright light. Majority do not have that privilege. So, the youth will do anything and everything to live.
The last issue I want to talk about in this regard, is the state of our education in the country. I believe our youth are poorly educated, whether they've been to school or not. Even those with university qualifications are nothing to write home about. Truly. Don’t get me wrong. I am not talking bad against schools in Ghana because I school somewhere else. Far from that. I had all my education in Ghana and will not have reached where I am today without that necessary foundation. My point is very simple.
Education must make sense. In other words, it must transform the graduate and his or her and her environment. If you are highly educated, and by that, I mean if you have a university degree, and you still cannot find your way into the world, then it means there is a problem with your education. Most of our so-called educated youth cannot even fill a common passport form or a company registration form. Ghana, I remember was once ranked lowest in the global educational index in the not-too-distant past.
What we receive in our schools which we call education is pathetic. There is much more learning outside the classroom than inside the classroom. Most of our youth only learn for exams. And you cannot be highly educated if your goal is to just pass an exam. So, all in all, we still have a long way to go. For our youth to be at the global level, we need radical transformation and disruption of the status quo! From top to bottom!
NB: The writer is Community Organizer, Reader and a Student of Knowledge.