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Opinions of Monday, 23 November 2015

Columnist: Adu-Gyamfi. Kwaku

Do Ghana’s Future Leaders Have A Future?

From Voice of Reason:
Kojo Osei, graduated from Legon a couple of years ago, but he’s now a gung-ho ‘foot soldier’ for a major political party. He feels that it’s the fastest way to an upward mobility .Another aspiring graphic art designer, who graduated from Polytechnic just moved to the “Sakwa Mecca”, Agona Sweduru to hone his sakwa skills. What is going on, folks? Ghana’s future leaders definitely need a future!
History continues to judge Ghanaian past and present leaderships harshly for the mistreatment of the nation’s most important resources—the young people.

The fundamental reality is that Ghanaian youth appear to be falling way, way, behind the young people of comparable nations with limited natural resources than Ghana.

This much is known about the so-called the future leaders of this country: The typical young Ghanaian is poor, unemployed or underemployed, living in a rural area, probably hungry and angry as hell.
The average young person in this country is lacking education or having inadequate education, as are essential services and adequate skills for the new knowledge economy. That is why they’re easily lured into substance abuse, risky sexual behavior, crime, violence, and over-consumption of ‘imported life-styles and cultures’. A general exclusion from decision-making process has also left young people disillusioned. Now the question is who will help the Ghana’s future leaders to get a future? Stop scratching your head and answer me!
For over two decades the Ghanaian government upon government has neglected the plight and needs of the Ghanaian youth because there has not been any comprehensive and specially tailored development plan in place to address the youths’ wellbeing and aspirations.
Today, as Ghanaians, we live in the wealthiest time of the history of this nation. Yet, today clinical depression rates among the young generation are ten times what it was in the 1960s. And, a greater percentage of young Ghanaians commit suicide than they did in the seventies and eighties.
In contrast, seven out of ten Ghanaians in the seventies lived on less than a cedi a day, and the average person lived to see his or her fifty-second birthday. Yet they considered themselves “very happy”. Some of those who are lucky to be employed today work twenty fewer hours a week than their parents did and enjoy three times as many leisure hours as they had—not to mention the time they use to goof –off ,being on the cell phones and on the internet.
But, today, ‘what a shock and ‘gone- too- soon’ obituary posters have blanketed the nation’s landscape .Paradoxical? Yes! Alarming? Absolutely. But, surprising? Not really! Not when you look closely at things and consider how far and how fast we’ve evolved culturally as a nation and neglected our most important resources---our youth.
During the seventies people were attempting to solve ‘economic problems’ and that provided both meaning and purpose to people’s lives. People basically struggled to provide sufficient food, clothing and shelter and that gave them a reason to wake up, each day. Back then, the primary purpose of human existence was to beat the odd, and survive.
Fortunately, for majority of Ghanaians this is not the case. For the first time in the history of Ghana, the biggest menace facing us as a nation is not the ravage of great famine, the outbreak of horrible disaster, or even death from a massive civil war.
The biggest threats facing this generation and this nation are the commercially created instant gratification syndrome for our youths (without comparable purchasing power), maniacal self-absorption and perpetual discontent of our young population. The spate of armed -robbery involving very young people is symptomatic of a problem—a problem of neglected youth who are lacking marketable skills and resources or lack of little or no hope for the future. Unfortunately, we’re treating these issues like a trouble –maker child in the family. We try as much as possible to hide him from the view of our visitors during special occasions, but he has nowhere to go. He’ll come out when they leave.
For decades, our policymakers, politicians, and community leaderships have looked the other way while school- aged boys and girls either drop out of school to sell dog chains and pure water in the middle of our roads or drug themselves to death. Some have turned themselves into self-appointed ‘pot -holes road contractors’, all in the name of making a buck. The greedy ones are turning to “sakawa”.
All across the nation, employment is a problem. Even those with college degrees can’t find a decent job. People are struggling to make two ends meet; yet, our politicians and policymakers worry about the impending elections and their re-election prospects—twisted priorities indeed!
GYEEDA was a laudable idea to support youth employment .But the greedy politicians turned it into a goldmine or personal cottage industry, and looted the state with impunity. The youth Enterprise Support (YES) that has replaced GYEEDA may suffer the same fate if bad the leadership continues. By the way, how broad is the YES program? Does it cater for the less educated, and rural dwellers who can equally perform as good entrepreneurs given awareness of availability of the support?
Right now, no one seems to care anymore when supposedly our future: leaders, mothers, wives, teachers, engineers, doctors, and policy makers are just getting by without any comprehensive plan for them.
You don’t believe me? Go to any town or village and neighborhood in Ghana... You will see healthy, able-bodied young men and women doing practically nothing constructive to prepare for the future. These people want to work, but there is no job so they’re just sitting around killing time. Ghana’s future is going down the drain when its youths have no future.
I know Ghana has its share of the global recession, but how long can Ghanaian youths wait? Can their expectations be negotiated and anger be contained when we have neglected them for so long? With all the jobless young people meandering through life like a small stream trying to find its way into a major, tributary, they’re going to be more hostile and aggressive when the oil money doesn’t trickle down on them.
Does the Niger Delta militancy ring a bell?
The point is, when you disinvest in education, provide no places for kids to play after school hours, and offer no vacation jobs, eventually the ‘Arab Spring’ will happen. When the government refuses to provide resources for job training for the youths, discontent happens and they will reluctantly accept offers from ISIS and the likes at the peril of their lives, after all there is no hope. When there is no comprehensive plan in place for our future leaders, Ghana has no future. When there are no avenues on which to channel their indignation, they can disrupt the fragile and infant peace we have in this country. Our attitude proves that majority of people in Parliament care little about the plight of the youths (especially those who come from poor families and underserved).They place no value on our greatest asset—our young people.
For one thing, the young people of this nation have no trust in our modern day government or the older generation. If the system allows lawyers and police officers to collect bribes and the government’s officials to steal electrical transformers without bringing those individuals to justice, (what justice?) then how can it be trusted to offer equity?
The scariest part is that those who are interpreting the law and suppose to protect individual’s Rights and Freedom are very corrupt. As a result, innocent people have been jailed or dead in prison because of shoddy justice. Oh, Lordy!
In addition to our decrepit education system, youth underemployment, lack of opportunities, and other youth related crisis have not been deeply addressed enough by our leaderships, politicians and policy makers. In effect, the major responsibility lies within our leaderships and the older generation. We must therefore transmit a genuine love to the young people in order to ensure that they will not feel rootless, isolated, hapless, hopeless, unloved, untouched, and simply unattended to.
Yes I know, the challenges facing Ghana are massive—they’re structural and deeply entrenched .Therefore they require a response that is equally massive, structural and deep. That includes not just popular, but economic choices that are not dictated by external entities who will always force us to implement them. Our homegrown policies must be given a lot of consideration to local products sector that has the capacity to stimulate demand for raw materials, which will in turn engage many unemployed and underemployed youth.

Policy makers in Ghana have to reflect on this honestly. Trends must be examined and education, health, social and economic development policies systematically be evaluated and reshaped where necessary to address and reflect on the needs of our youth.

Otherwise ,the youth, our future, have no future. I hope these are not too demanding requests for our leaderships to address.

Are you there? Don’t sleep on me, please!
Until we meet here again, stay strong, be blessed and educated about the issues and concern of our land.

Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi (voice of reason)
Asuom, kwaebibrim district.
*The author is a concerned citizen, social commentator, Private school director, and founder of Adu-Gyamfi foundation for the disadvantaged youth of Asuom.