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Making the National Youth Commission work for Sierra Leone

Making the National Youth Commission work for Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone recognizes the vital role of the youth in nation-building, it is believed that President Ernest Bai Koroma is ready to promote and protect their physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual and social well-being. The formation of the National Youth Commission, NYC, provides the youth with opportunities to be an active partner in nation-building through youth programs and projects that will develop and harness their potentials and enable them to be of great service to their country and community.

The term ‘nation building’ in Sierra Leone is usually used to refer to a constructive process of engaging all citizens in building social cohesion, economic prosperity and political stability in an inclusive and democratic way. It is important to note that the priceless resource of Sierra Leone is its human resource.

President Ernest Bai Koroma in his wisdom believes that there is no other resource that matches the human being, because mankind is the foundation or the corner stone of any development and civilization. Mr. President is aware of the fact that out of the human intellect Sierra Leone is built. This can be confirmed by the fact that Sierra Leone can be able to attain steady growth and development with limited natural resources through the intelligence of its people and the labor force. Young people are a crucial segment of Sierra Leone’s development. Their contribution therefore is highly needed. Young people are social actors of change and as the saying goes: “Youth are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but also the partners of today. ’’

Sierra Leone like most developing countries has as a majority of its population young people, most of who are in dire need of adequate solution to their problems. It is there clear to realize that the formation of the National Youth Commission is coming at the right time. Currently, the government and the youths are working hand in glove to appoint development oriented and youth focused leaders that will provide quality leadership in the Commission. This could be a very tedious job, owing to the fact that party politics may hamper the whole process if the President fails to put the right people in the right place. Putting squire pegs in round hole for the satisfaction of the party in power at the detriment of the state should be the least President Koroma should think of. There are rumours going around town that some party stalwarts are going around the corridors of State House to recommend to HE the President their close allied, most of whom lack youth leadership qualities. President Koroma should shift completely from this kind of system. He should rather use his political wisdom to choose prominent youth leaders that have been in youth movement for a very long time.

The likes of Anthony Koroma, Director of Youths and Ishmael Al-Sankoh Conteh, President of National Youth Coalition and other young people that graduated from the Children’s Forum Network should be at focus. They have contributed immensely to the coordination of successful national youth programs. Let us don’t forget the fact that they are the brain behind the formation of the National Youth Commission. It is imperative of President Koroma to receive these people with open hands. Anthony Koroma can be the right person to head the Commission because of his continuous leadership commitment in coordinating and promoting youth activities in Sierra Leone.

These development oriented youths have represented Sierra Leone on several youth discussions at local and international level. They are well recognized by the youths of Sierra Leone as very instrumental in bringing youths together, and also channel a comprehensive advocacy on issues bothering on youth development in the country.

As scholars have stated, “time is not evaluated by what has been harvested, but what has been planted”. The government and society at large have equal responsibility to provide the youth with suitable grounds and thereby bringing about a matured and responsible population for the coming generation to lead a better life. As such the establishment of the Youth Commission, the development of a comprehensive National Youth Policy requires quality youth leadership. They will be in a better position to work with the government of the day.

Consider this as a vision for our society: let us don’t forget that country where all citizens, young and old, are informed about and engaged in all major issues that affect their lives; A place where adults and young people are together at the table; debating, grappling with problems, crafting solutions and jointly deciding on how resources should be allocated; A robust democracy where all people, including youth, exercise their right to select those who should speak and act on their behalf and hold them accountable; Where young people have an equal opportunity to have a sustainable livelihood. Imagine adults and young people working together to build a thriving a society from the ground up – contributing to nation building from the community level where the likes of Anthony Koroma and Ishmael Al-Sankoh Conteh have been working, they will be willing enough to do it up at national level.

Herein lays the power behind the potential role of youth as nation builders through political participation. The term nation building is used here to refer to a constructive process of engaging all citizens in building social cohesion, economic prosperity and political stability in an inclusive and democratic way. It is a process through which all people have access to and control of structures and mechanisms that govern their lives.

We should stop those primitive thought of perceiving young people of possessing the following three frequently cited reasons for why they are excluded from political participation. 1) Young people are perceived as lacking the skills and qualities; 2) young people are not afforded the opportunities to share power with adults; and 3) young people are portrayed as lacking the motivation.

Those that are currently lobbying at State House may be arguing that young people are often viewed as lacking the skills needed to become part of the political process. These perceptions are often backed by popular theories on political selfishness many of which define youth as social group that is in the ‘stage of becoming adults, and so therefore they are unprepared to take up leadership.

In the past young people are not afforded the opportunities to share power with adults in part because they are viewed as lacking the requisite skills. It is not a surprise that there are not expectations and processes that facilitate the political participation of young people at the national level. Consequently, they are not invited to the table. The very idea of “youth citizenship” – young people participating as equals – is a stretch for many adults. The irony is, however, that once at the table, the likes of Anthony Koroma and Al-Sankoh Conteh should not be viewed as a threat to adult power. They can perform.

President Koroma should be reminded that one of the more frequently used justifications excluding young people is the entrenched myth of youth apathy – young people are frequently portrayed as lacking motivation to become involved. This myth is captured most aptly in the media hype about Generation syndrome which describes young people as a socially inert, self-absorbed group with little or no interest in the political process. This negative perception should be changed. In spite of the fact that young people play a key role in the war, they also have the opportunity to bring peace and sustainable development if they are accorded the opportunity.
The Youths themselves will be willing to cooperate with this kind of leadership structure, especially so when Mohamed Farook is on top of the Board.

It is good that we have these structures in place but if the youths do not make the best use of them no beneficial result will be realized. As young people we must be ready and willing to take advantage of any opportunity that comes their way. It’s important to note that they can’t all work in offices; therefore some of them would have to train themselves to be welders, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, craftsmen, farmers etc.

By Fadda Bakish, Freetown

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