A NAYCONF with a difference
Friday, April 11, 2008
According to figures from census reports, the population of the Gambia stands at a staggering one and a half million people. Of this, that group of the people that fall within the age bracket defined as youth constitutes a little short of 50%. This youthful nature of the country suggests that those within the age bracket form the majority of the unemployed segment in society. This would leave any government unsettled, as it is these people that are highly prone to scourges like drugs, alcohol, HIV/AIDS and the other STIs, etc.
Cognizant of this compelling fact, the Gambia government has never ever relented in its drive to ensure that the youth, the grain of the next generation, receive maximum attention regarding their preparation to assume their rightful place as leaders of this county. This is evident in the numerous opportunities created for them, as embodied in the vision of the Gambian leader, President Jammeh.
Through the national youth council, the parent body of all youth organizations in this country, the youth have been provided with the opportunity "to design and direct their own destiny."
The national association of youth conference and festival (NAYCONF) is one such forum that provides such an opportunity. The brain child of the Gambia government, as it is a product of the very act that established the NYC, is organized every two years, and it aims at bringing together young people from all over the country to share their experiences and dilate on issues that affect their lives.
Having been held on three occasions in 2001, in the Upper River Region (Basse); in 2004, in Banjul; and in 2006, in the Western Region (Brikama); this year's edition of NAYCONF is set for the North Bank Region, in Farafeni. However, experience gathered during past events leaves the organizers restless as manifested during the inaugural meeting of the national organizing committee, at a ceremony presided over by the Gambian secretary of state for youth and sports, Honorable Mass Axi Gye.
Alhajie Kebbe is the Chairperson of the NYC, and according to him, there was the need to refer to past experiences to circumvent the huddles that confronted previous activities. Inadequate regional preparations, non participation of regional authorities, failure of the youth organizations themselves to take the lead, according to Mr Keebeh, were, among other issues, the reasons behind all the problems that confronted them in previous activities.
As in almost everything in this country, the major problem was finance. But the presence of the visibly considerate SoS and his emphatic Permanent Secretary, Mr Mambanyic Njie, some how boosted the morale of the NYC chairperson. Mr Kebbeh had complementary words for the Gambian leader and his vice president, Dr Aja Isatou Njie Saidy.
And for Pa Malick Ceesay, the executive secretary of NYC, "there will be no excuse for failure. We either change for the better or we do something else" he posited.
The newly appointed director of youth, Mr Malang Jassy, called for unity to facilitate the success of the program.
If there was any issue all of these speakers had common idea about it was the full participation of government. This was categorically spelled out by chairman Kebbeh. "The last time round, government pledged to throw in some money, but not a single coin came in." This, he said, forced them to take loans, which were still outstanding.
SoS Axi Gye tacitly recognized the complaint of the youth leaders. He further said: "My agenda is the youth. He promised them that he would take it personally to ensure that all what was needed to be done was in place. He said that he had been witnessing past activities with keen interest, and that he was not the least satisfied with the way things had been going, reiterating the significance President Jammeh attaches to matters of the youth of this country. He said: "I have been around witnessing all past event and I would not hesitate to say that some people negated their responsibility.
People must come together to ensure a better celebration this time round". SoS Gye further went on to advice against complacency, noting that it might appear that there was enough time, but, he said, December is right at the corner.
Effectiveness of members, team work as well as effective communication were issues SoS Gye stressed on, saying that they were very crucial for the successful implementation of such a national occasion. "I am not promising you, he said, but I can say that I will use my office to ensure that everything is fine".
Echoing is boss's sentiment, the Permanent Secretary, Department of State for Youth and sport, Mambanyick Njie, said that this year's celebration would be "a NAYCONF with a difference. He also advised members of the committee to live up to expectation. Other speakers included the directors of NYSS and PIA.
The rationale of the youth conference and festival, according to a statement from the NYC, is to serve as an appropriate and effective means through which young people can dilate on issues that affect them. It also opportune them to interact with each other and relevant government authorities, take part in debates during the conference and also learn from the different cultures existing in our society through cultural shows, performances and drama competitions.
Author: by Kemo Cham