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Opinion | Aug 13, 2018

Safe Spaces And Employable Skills For Sustainable Youth Development

Undeniably, young people in all countries are both a major human resource for development and key agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation.

Consequently, in the last five decades and counting the United Nations General Assembly endorsed a number of resolutions that emphasised three basic themes: participation, development and peace – themes that have reflected on youth international days from then on until the year 2000 and beyond.

Thus, July 15 is World Youth Skills Day (WYSD) and August 12 is International Youth Day (IYD). The theme for WYSD 2018 is “youth skills for work and life in the post 2015 agenda” while the theme for IYD 2018 is, “safe spaces for youth”. Skills and safe spaces are issues of human rights which find expression in the targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 4, 8, and 11.

Indubitably, safe spaces and employable skills is a sure way of ensuring that the youth of the world participate in the development of their country. Again, the two themes relate in the sense that, institutions where young people get trained in various skills and then move on to become entrepreneurs are spaces on their own.

In Ghana, apart from the Ghana Education Service, some other government agencies also run skill training, technical and vocational institutes which are dotted across the length and breadth of the country. Examples include the Community Development Technical and Vocational Institutes of the Department of Community Development as well as the Skills Training Institutes of the National Youth Authority.

Government’s efforts to place all technical, vocational as well as skills training centres under a new agency yet to be created is commendable. There’s the need to draw attention that issues that deal with youth development should be treated with a high sense of urgency. Thus, there’s the need to speed up these efforts to make it a reality.

In the interim, all technical, vocational and skills training centres that the National Youth Authority or the Department of Community Development runs should be resourced adequately. The human resource capacities of the teachers should equally be improved. Finally, the students in these schools should also benefit from the Free Senior High Schools.

Safe spaces can be categorised into civic spaces where young people converge to discuss issues; public spaces, where the youth participate in sports or leisure activities in the communities; digital spaces help youth to interact virtually across the borders with everyone; physical spaces, where vulnerable and marginalised youth converge to have their diverse needs met.

From the above categorisations, there’re many of the spaces that have been created except for civic spaces. A civic space is where youth discuss governance issues and that is at the core of sustainable youth development.

A typical example of a civic space is the creation of a National Youth Parliament that is apolitical in nature and gives youth across the nation to contribute to the policies that concern national development as well as youth development.

Although, this initiative is laudable and possible, there’s an undercurrent of reluctance on the part of the political class and policy makers in creating such platform that empowers youth to demand good, transparent, accountable, and participatory governance. One may argue that student unions are civic spaces; however, these spaces have been infiltrated by the politicians and a divide and rule tactics have been employed by political parties, so most youth in such unions are blinded on political partisan lines.

In the last decade or so, the Upper West Regional office of the National Youth Authority, has created an apolitical regional youth parliament that comprises of youth from youth led organisations and individuals from diverse fields. This has also been replicated in the districts and other municipalities of the region. The beauty of this regional youth parliament is its apolitical nature which the youth parliamentarians have kept intact over the years.

Creating a National Youth Parliament for youth will inure to the benefit of the nation. It will prepare the youth for leadership now and in the future. It becomes a platform where the youth become enlightened and influence other youths in their communities, the nation and the world at large. This will create an enlightened youth for national and sustainable development.

The lip service paid to creating a civic space in the form of a National Youth Parliament as well as resourcing technical, vocational and skill training centres must give way to actions.

The youth are a major human resource for development and key agents for social change, economic development and technological innovation; but the best way to tap these benefits is creating safe spaces and providing facilities for skills training for a sustainable youth development.

The writer is a freelance journalist. [email protected]/[email protected]

ALEX BLEGE, © 2018

This author has authored 98 publications on Modern Ghana.
Author column: ALEXBLEGE

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