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Opinions of Monday, 29 January 2018

Columnist: Ayebilla Avoka

Engaging the youth in problem solving to achieve sustainable development in northern Ghana

Poverty and economic hardship are high in northern Ghana because most youths are unemployed Poverty and economic hardship are high in northern Ghana because most youths are unemployed

Sustainable development is the judicious use of resources to ensure positive long-lasting transformation in the lives of people while preserving these resources for future generations. Such transformation maintains a healthy natural environment and livelihood empowerment of current and future generations. Ghana has not attained such development since independence because she has not been able to find permanent solutions to deforestation, bad sanitation practices, poor education, illegal mining, and many other problems she faces.

The northern part of Ghana shares in these problems with poor education, unemployment, and desertification as the top three problems it faces. It is an undeniable fact that the youth form a major part of the three northern regions' population, and would be key drivers if the regions must solve these problems to achieve sustainable development. However, I want to put on record that if innovative approaches are not used to align the intentions of government with the attention of the youth, the youth will remain inactive in the fight for sustainable development in the Region.

Therefore, the paragraphs that follow elaborate how the government could effectively engage the youth in problem-solving to ensure sustainable development in Northern Ghana which will translate into national development.

First and foremost, poor learning experience which results in poor academic performance in Northern Ghana would be a thing of the past if outstanding students at higher levels would take the pain to mentor those at the lower levels. Northern Ghana is less developed with most of the schools found in the rural settings.

The students in these areas have no access to useful information which can help enrich their educational experience. For this reason, a mentorship network should be created where the outstanding youth in tertiary schools will mentor high school students and the outstanding high school students in turn mentor junior high and primary school pupils.

This way, if each mentor is given two to three mentees, the mentors will have time to enrich their mentees’ educational experience and guide them through the academic ladder. Classroom teachers alone cannot enrich the educational experience of children in the region because of the higher student-teacher ratio. I know mentorship is going to work perfectly because I am part of a school-based club (Ashesi University) called Mentors Network. We mentor primary and junior high pupils in Ayim community, a village in Eastern Region.

The mentor-mentee relationship has made it easier for the students to interact with us, ask questions which their classroom teachers may not have time to answer, and we help review some of their lessons. Some parents of our mentees do call to thank us, or give feedback on how their children have improved in certain aspects of their lives. To be sure that this mentorship network works perfectly, I suggest that the state should not be the one to provide this service. Instead, a private mentorship organization should be charged to do so, so that it does not become a white elephant.

When the organization develops its own award schemes for the mentors based on the performance of their mentees, mentors will show a level of commitment to the task and Massive failures in Northern Ghana due to poor educational experience will be outdated.

Moreover, poverty and economic hardship are high in northern Ghana because the majority of the youth are not employed. In my opinion, young people in Northern Ghana have no reason to be poor but they are, because, they feel so much entitled to jobs from the government. They do not move along with the fast-changing 21st-century economy. There is a saying that ‘success is by plans not by chance’ and yet the youth of northern Ghana have failed to plan their lives for success.

They do not add value to themselves by engaging themselves outside the classroom. It is high time entrepreneurs in this country organized seminars for the youth in northern Ghana to inject entrepreneurial spirit into their lives. The youth should be challenged in such seminars to know that, they are the government and it is their own responsibility to do for themselves what they want. This will be the best way to change the sad stories told all over the world about poverty in Northern Ghana because, as entrepreneurs, they will have the problem-solvers-mentality. They will learn to turn their problems into businesses and create employment for themselves.

I had the opportunity to attend a youth summit on entrepreneurship and economic liberty organized by Center for Liberty and Entrepreneurship (CLE Ghana) in Bolga during the summer, 2017. There, the participants were introduced to cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology which has helped some young people to live better lives with a little investment. Almost everyone who was attending the summit for the first time was a little resistive upon hearing cryptocurrency but they all welcomed the technology on the last day when others shared their testimonies on how cryptocurrency helped them gain their economic freedom.

The youth of northern Ghana need more of such seminars where entrepreneurial success stories are told to spark up their interest in entrepreneurship and the fight for their economic freedom. ‘Success’ as they say, ‘leaves behind clues and trails in the puzzles of life’ and so it will not be wrong to use the few young people who have succeeded in the field of entrepreneurship in Ghana such as the CEO of Teach for Ghana, CEO of BEIGE financial group, CEO of Northern Television, and many others to inspire the youth of northern Ghana and help them gain their economic stands.

Finally, I believe knowledge precedes freedom of every individual or society. Therefore, before the youth of Northern Ghana could attain economic freedom, there is the need for them to read widely.

The knowledge they need to attain such freedom is hidden in books of great men and women like Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, James O'Toole, Adam Smith, Aristotle, Stephen Adei, Dambisa Moyo, Hernando De Soto and many others. No one can contribute effectively to nation building without first having to know how power and capital work in society.

The youth need to maximize their knowledge by engaging actively with such materials outside of the classroom to equip themselves with the tools needed to part take in the 21st-century competition. The more you engage with such materials, the bigger your chances of winning the competition against the forces of nature and humanity. There is a saying that, if you want to hide something from the black man, put it in books.

Why? Because he will not read! He prefers to be entertained by the television than develop himself with knowledge from books. I believe that readers are leaders and so the youth of Northern Ghana need books than money to be able to contribute effectively towards nation building.

In summary, mentorship networks should be created in Northern Ghana where outstanding students in higher levels will mentor those at the lower levels to help enrich their educational experience and improve their academic performance. Also, young entrepreneurs in Ghana should be used to inspire and guide the young people of Northern Ghana to grow as lovers of entrepreneurship where they are able to solve their own problems and create employment opportunities for others.

Again, every young person in school in Northern Ghana should cultivate the habit of engaging with books to maximize their knowledge of how power and capital work in the society. I believe that Northern Ghana will be a home of milk and honey if these innovative ideas are employed by those concerned.

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