Youth and national development challenges
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Facing a daunting challenge ill prepared for may lead to
fatal and discouraging situation for people. This can even cause a person,
particularly a youth from giving up hope in his own struggle or for even
national development. The search for a brighter future for young people is
however a duty bound, upon not
only the young themselves, but also on parents and authorities such as
governments. If the youth are ignored, we are simply neglecting or impairing our
Many young people in the Gambia today lack the vigor and energy, and easily relinquish hope to stand face-to-face some challenges because they are not much exposed to them. There is a strong perception that most of the current social problems that are endemic in the country are the direct result of the neglect of education and youth development for the past decades, be it unemployment, teenage pregnancies, increasing drug-users or dealers, crime, indiscipline, corruption, greed and selfishness.
Our national planning should start with programmes for our
youth, for they are the future and if we do not integrate their aspirations and
expectations in our national planning efforts, we are essentially ignoring the
future of the nation. This is why a viable and efficient educational system is
vital for any country. But our youth, like the youth of every forward-looking
nation, need more than good educational system; they need recreational
programmes and social institutions that will inculcate in them national and
cultural values and attitudes which will make them good, productive, and
patriotic citizens of our country.
The creation of vibrant youth empowerment and skills development centers that would provide avenues for the youth to involve themselves in nation building activities is vital. Institutions like the NYSS, the President's International Awards Scheme, the National Youth Councilall aim to provide youths with leadership training skills, team-spirit and develop healthy habits and attitudes which will foster characteristics like kindness, honesty, diligence, fraternity, fellow-feeling, fair-play, and patriotism.
Inoculating the youth with traditional and national values has been the concern of every progressive society everywhere. Our forefathers had a way of doing theirs effectively through various rites and groups. The colonial government intentionally encouraged associations like the scout and guild movements, volunteer work, camp associations, and Red Cross, which served as outlets to the energies, idealism and sense of being a brother or sister's keeper for the youth. These are vital values in nation building.
In 2003, as a 20-year-old youth, preparing to go to high school, I had a unique opportunity to join about 40 other young pioneers from various towns and villages in the West Coast Regionto do a 1- week volunteer community outreach to meet young people and discuss with them matters affecting their lives.
We spent thosedays helping to build a stronger and confident youth hub in that region.
We also helped to clean the streets and conduct some community health
education. This is over 9 years ago, and until today, I can say without any
doubt that it was that experience at Tujereng which sensitized me forever to
the importance of community service, literacy, sanitation and the use of local
resources for economic empowerment.
There are always obviously some disturbing aspects in trying
to bring about youth development, but the basic idea of having a national youth
organization to inculcate national and cultural values into our youth and
inundate them with patriotism is a good idea. Just imagine now having a
national youth organization or even 3 to 5 different organizations all teaching
our young people the shared values, beginning with sense of nationhood, that we
should all see ourselves as one people with a common destiny.
That kindness and team work will serve us better than greed and selfishness; that our nation desires productive and enterprising citizens and not drug-peddlers and loathers; that honest service and helping people in need is nobler than riches from robbery and corruption; that volunteerism helps the nation more than people instigating violence and destruction of public property; that humility is preferable to arrogance; that national service matters to the welfare of our people; that crime hurts and whatever is good for the nation is good for all of us as individuals.
The youth by nature have a lot of energy and expectations,
and unless we guide them and channel it into productive and enterprising
activities, others could easily manipulate it into destructive and unproductive
ventures. A lot of youth are into drugs and crime not because they are
intrinsically bad, but because they are bored and want something to do. The
devil, they say, finds work for the idle hands.
This is where an imaginative leader comes up with ideas like the National Youth Service Scheme to help clean the cities or help with rural development, or mass health education. America’s former president, Kennedy came up with the Peace Corps in 1961 and captured the idealism of young Americans willing to spend time in different countries, in villages, and communities to help people. But on a reflection, the individual Americans and their country benefited from the experience.
Fundamentally today, I will reiterate my perpetual appeal to parents and authorities not to see young people as obstacles to national development but instead partners in all the development processes of a country. When they are well empowered and counselled, it would be very surprising to see what they can contribute to national development
Author: Amadou Jallow