The appropriate role of the youth in our Ghanaian society to nation building has been a subject of controversy for some time now, as there is no clearly defined role given to them in matters pertaining to nation building.
In my opinion, two schools of thought have emerged in the light of these debates. Those who doubt the readiness and capacity of the youth to nation building and therefore take centre stage in advocating for a nation controlled by the elderly.
The other group is those who believe that the youth has a significant stake in nation building, considering the number of youths in the world and therefore advocate for a greater participation in nation building.
Indeed, the importance or role of the youth to nation building was given an impetus, boost or credence when President John Dramani Mahama aptly put-forward a challenge to the youth of Ghana to be an active part in nation building .He stated unequivocally “take ownership of this country, and join in the authorship of its story”. He further called on the youth to leave a mark on the blank pages of Ghana's history in his New Year message or address to Ghanaians on 31st December, 2012.
Equally instructive is the comments made by former secretary General Kofi Annan that “young people are key agents of development and must be at the forefront of global change and innovation” in an interview with Joy FM on February 2, 2013.
With Ghana's present population estimated at a little over 24million per the 2010 population census and those between 15-35 constituting more than 50 percent of the total population, it is understandable why there is an upsurge in the advocacy for greater participation of the youth in nation building.
For the purposes of this article, it is important to count all those between ages 15-35 as my definition of youth which comprises students, employees, workers, farmers and persons from various professions including the unemployed-educated or otherwise.
This classification stems from the fact that the definitions of the specific age range that constitute youth vary. This is evidenced by the fact that an individual's actual maturity may not correspond to their chronological age, as immature individuals can exist at all ages.
Undoubtedly, these people constitute a large force, they are energetic, smart, enthusiastic and full of zeal and willing to deliver quality work on time but, unfortunately majority of these young folks are without direction, obviously because our nation has not made the needed efforts to align them appropriately.
Indeed, there is no denying the fact that allowing them to remain idle without any way of contributing to nation building has a detrimental effect on the progress of our nation and the eventual increase in their frustration thereby leading to youthful waywardness.
Arguably, a large number of them are capable, devoted, dedicated and are fond of work. Their inability to contribute to engender nation building is as a result of their being without any worthwhile job and the reality of not given avenue to realize the depth of their potential.
It is definitely not good news to our nation if these energetic hands and brains are not provided with some sort of work to meet the demands of our nation. No nation I dare say, in the 21st century will permit such wastage and Ghana must wake up from its slumber.
Fellow countrymen, this is not to say that the establishment of the national youth employment programme by the government of Ghana is not laudable or good. It is a good start but efforts must be put in place to weed out political patronage to ensure its sustenance and above all the realization of its goal.
It is not a hidden fact that past and present governments try as much as possible to fill their party surrogates into the programme as a form of reward for the support they gave them in their electoral victories. Nobody has a problem with that, because as far as am concerned they are also Ghanaians and thus are entitled to some sort of work. What I am however against is the reality of them not working but receiving their due at the end of the month.
A case in point is of those who have been assigned to schools without them even stepping a foot there but at the end receive their salaries simply because they are aligned to a party and so on.
Equally appalling is the fact that some persons at the helm of affairs will employ people to the programme who are non-existent, otherwise referred to as “ghost workers'' and at the end of the month receive the salaries on behalf of 'these people' and the fact that even those who turn out for work are not paid on time and most often receive paltry sums.
Am sorry I have to go on this tangent in establishing my point, but the crux of the matter is that more efforts need to be put in place to sanitize the programme to make it more relevant.
Back to my earlier point; Indeed, I recollect vividly the remarks made by my childhood friend, Chrispin Ajedipe, a final year Petroleum Engineering student of Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), Kumasi, when he shared his thoughts on the role of the youth in nation building.
Interestingly, he indicated that “the problem is not with the youth but with our nation, what Ghana needs to do is to take the youth into confidence, give them a direction, for their energy is overwhelming”, interesting remarks folks!
Equally significant is the remarks made by Oral Jesse Ansah, a colleague student Journalist on the role of the youth in nation building. He indicated that “the youth should be more interested in education since education is the fulcrum or pivot around which the whole nation revolves.” Arguably what he sought to imply was that when the youth have access to education they can contribute significantly to nation building.
Their remarks undoubtedly remind me of the statement made by Pablo Picasso (1881-1973) that “Give me a museum and I'll fill it." Indeed, I couldn't agree less with my good friends because, I am one of the few youth advocates who have never doubted the capacity of the youth.
This massive and overwhelming manpower of the youth can do wonders provided their enthusiasm is harnessed towards projecting the developmental agenda of our nation, otherwise touted as BETTER GHANA AGENDA by our current government.
Let me equally put on record that; Ghanaian youth have never lag behind when called to duty or meet a challenge. It is therefore, for our national leaders to play their part by mobilizing our energies and abilities and give us a clearly defined direction where we can contribute to nation building.
Interestingly, am not oblivious of what advocates and pundits of the first school of thought (which I will call anti-youth) will say or are saying, that the youth's inability to contribute to nation building is as a result of youthful waywardness or negative youthful exuberance and the youth apathetic attitude towards nation building.
I want to state here and now, that let there be no doubt about our strength, power and capability to significantly contribute in changing the fortunes of our nation and determining its destiny. Our counterparts elsewhere have changed governments in their countries, contributed significantly to policy formulation and direction and contributed in various ways in making the world a better place to live. The creation of facebook and twitter are cases in point.
There is no denying the fact that it was the youth of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya who started and overthrew their governments in the Arab spring. The overthrow of President Sokarno of Indonesia is also a case in point. The recent history of Czechoslovakia, Cambodia, Pakistan and France among others lends credence to the invaluable force of the youth movements in the 21st century.
Who can deny the contributions of the youth in the independence struggle and subsequent liberation of our country Ghana? The inspiring role played by the Gold Coast and West African students union to the independence of our nation and most African states is undeniably recognizably remarkable.
After independence, the youth through National Union of Ghana students (NUGS), West African Students Union (WASU) and All African Students Union (AASU) respectively, continue to shape policy formulation and vital interventions in the development of democracy in our country and in many other countries in Africa.
It is vivid that when the youths are excluded, the rest of the population of our country will comprise of old people and children and they cannot be seen or called the real manpower of the nation. I dare say that if the youth of Ghana is not enthuse to devote their energies to the task of nation building ,then the whole manpower of the nation is being wasted.
While stating the above, I humbly submit and recognize that the task of nation building is enormous, as it has many phases which therefore imply that there is work for every youthful hand. All it takes is to assign tasks or jobs to the youth according to their capacity.
It saddens my heart that youth groups which are student-led and are supposed to be speaking in shaping national policy are dent silent. Why? They are simply afraid to be tagged as against or for the government. This is the sorry state of our current student movements such as National Union of Ghana Students (NUGS), Ghana Union of Professional Students (GUPS), Graduate Students Association of Ghana (GRASAG), University Students Association of Ghana (USAG), Teacher Trainees Association of Ghana (TTAG), Ghana National Union of Polytechnic Students (GNUPS) and Private University Students Association (PUSA) among others.
This delineation of boundary because of the fear of being tagged is obviously a recipe for disaster and a dent on the independence of these hitherto independent and forceful youth movements.
Sorry I have to bore you with this piece of information. I thought it was crucial for me to update you on the current unfortunate state of our student movements.
Back to the task of nation building, for the youth to adequately contribute to nation building the following should be instituted.
First of all, one critical area their energies can be channeled is AGRICULTURE. The government can create schemes or programmes connected at raising the level of production in agriculture. The youth maybe assigned the job of dissemination of knowledge for better new farming techniques and proper use of fertilizers and pesticides. What is important is for them to be given adequate training in these tasks.
Another field where their energy can be gainfully employed is the task of ADULT EDUCATION. It is my conviction that when they are given a little dose of incentive or encouragement and support so they may take over the great responsibility of fulfilling the tasks fixed by the government. Their services may similarly be utilized by government for preventing and fighting crime like internet fraud, hoarding, smuggling, human trafficking and black marketing among others.
They can create public opinion against those who engage in such criminal practices, thereby contributing in making the world a better place.
Undoubtedly, the role of the youth to nation building is enormous and I don't intent to bore you with a lot of examples on this maiden edition on the above caption. However, it is my hope that pragmatic efforts will be put in place by the powers that be, to engender the youth's participation in nation building.
We must therefore all get involved to re-ignite the debate on the appropriate role of the youth in nation building. I rest my case for now and to delve deeper into the matter subsequently.
God bless our homeland Ghana!
***The writer is the External affairs Secretary of GIJ SRC, Sksteveworld.blogspot.com, Email: [email protected], Telephone: 0247648864***