The Importance of Building Human Resource Capacity
Speech delivered at the 46th Foundation Day and Prize giving ceremony of the Sierra Leone Muslim Congress Boys’ Secondary School, Kissy Mess Mess, Freetown on Monday 28 March, 2011 by Alhaji Usman Boie Kamara (in photo).
Mr Chairman, Proprietors, Members of the Board of Governors, Principals and members of staff, Members of MUCOSA (The Old Boys Association),the CTA, Pupils, Distinguished Parents and Guardians, Friends of the Sierra Leone Muslim Congress Secondary School, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I feel singularly honoured today for being chosen to grace this occasion as Guest Speaker. I must offer my sincere thanks to the School and also assure them that it is with a deep sense of dedication and commitment ,taking cognizance of the responsibility involved, that I accept the invitation to address this august occasion.
Mr Chairman,I would like to start this address by first of all congratulating the school for its remarkable achievements over the years, particularly in the recent BECE and WASSCE exams. I would like to commend the staff for a job well done and hope that they will continue to render valuable services to the school.
When I sat down to put my thoughts into words upon receiving the invitation to be the keynote speaker here this afternoon, I pictured your young bright eager faces full of hope for a brighter future, just as I’m seeing them now. And I felt overwhelmed, just as I do now, with powerful emotions by the thought of the countless number of other young people who were once like you in this country; young people who have lost that hope for a brighter future and a sense of direction; young people, like you, who are now drifting purposelessly in a sea of ignorance, unemployment, poverty, drug abuse and crime. I was overwhelmed too by a thousand and one thoughts about what to say to you that would steer you clear off such horrible fate and guide you to dreams and your goals of a positive and productive kind. But the time I have here unfortunately will not permit me to tell you all those things that I would like to tell you that may lead in a positive direction.
After careful thought, among many useful topics, I settled for one that I believe will help guide you to your goals. Human Resource. I want to talk about our human resource. What it is? Why is it important? Who is or are responsible for its development? And, how best we should use it for ourselves and our country.
In talking about human resource, I want to start with human capital. In common business language, here, we all know what capital is. Though a rather simplistic definition, we regard capital as money you invest in business to make a profit. Human capital has a similar purpose but different in substance – it is the acquired knowledge and skill that an individual brings to an activity for productivity. Forms of human capital may differ among themselves but have the same general objective. A college education is a different type of human capital than the skills acquired as a carpenter through apprenticeship, but both have productive ends.
Human resource is the power to use that human capital. It is the development of human capabilities for productivity; it is human competencies, knowledge, skills and attitude to mobilize other resources for positive change. People become human resources when they acquire competencies such as knowledge, skills, attitudes, experiences and growth potentials. Human resources take into account not only the physical aspects of a human being but also his/her abilities, skills, knowledge, proficiency, mental capabilities, potentialities, and aptitude as well.
Now to relate this directly to you and make my meaning clearer. You all here hope, dream, want to be different things – doctors, lawyers, engineers, business men, master farmers, administrators, teachers, University lecturers, ICT wizards and so on and so forth. This means you all want to develop your human capital. If I were to ask you why do you want to go into one of these professions, what would you say? To earn respect. Good. To earn a living. Good. To be able to support myself and my family. Very good. But you would or should also say, to contribute to the development of my country. All of these are productive objectives. This means you will be making use of your human resource to develop either yourself, family, community or nation.
For me the noblest motive for wanting to develop your human capital and use your human resources should be to achieve something beyond the self. True, it should be to help your self, but also to help your family, community and your country. If you have some or all of these objective to motivate you to study and do well in school, you will not fail because you will realize that the responsibility you have is so challenging that you have to work with great strength, courage and determination for you to succeed. If you were studying only to succeed personally and help yourself, it wont be such a big challenge so you may not put all the effort required. You will not aim very high, and if you miss your mark, you may fail. But if you have this bigger dream of developing not only yourself, but your country and people, you feel the greatness of the challenge and you’ll make great effort and aim very high to achieve that goal, in a way that,even if you miss your mark, you won’t fail because you’ll still be up there. This is why human resource must refer not just to developing skills and knowledge, but also attitudes and growth potentials. Therefore when you the youth of our nation collectively set your target very high the nation will succeed. This is because people in general, particularly the young, are potentially the most valuable resource of a country, more valuable than mineral resources like gold, diamond, bauxite rutile, iron etc; more valuable that marines and agricultural resources . You’re the potential human resource.
So why is human resource so valuable and therefore so important? If we have all the gold, diamond and other minerals in the world put together and add to that the best climate and the most fertile land, and the richest marine resources, they will be of no value until they touched and used and made useful. Only human beings can do that – the human resource is needed to give value to all the other resources. In short, we can say that human resource is more valuable than other resources because it cannot be replaced by other resources and the effective use and success of other resources depend on the efficiency of human resources.
The big question is how can we develop our human resource? It has to be done collectively. I say collectively because you as pupils and individuals have a part to play, your family has a part to play, society has a part to play and the state has a part to play.
What’s your part as an individual pupil? Make the best use of the opportunity you have now- provided for you by your parent or guardian, your community and government. Not everyone has it. Take your lessons seriously and pass all your tests and exams. Your objective each year should be to pass your exams and go to the next class. Your longer term goal in school should be to go to some vocational or tertiary institution or university. When once you get there, you have a new goal – to graduate with flying colours. But to achieve this set of objectives and goals, you have to take you work seriously. You should always concentrate and be attentive in class. You must be obedient and cooperative with your teachers and lecturers at all times. Always shun bad company. Don’t do anything that will hurt your chances of getting a good education, or embarrass your family and school. Do only those things that will help you towards passing your exams and finally graduating with flying colours. When once you have achieved this you are in a position to take your rightful place in contributing to the development of the nation as part of our rich human resource capacity.
I am a retired mining engineer of close to forty years experience. I have helped develop myself, my family, my community and my country. You know why? Because I played my part when I was a pupil to develop my human resource. I made very good use of the all opportunities I had. It is hard but also easy. It is easy because all you need to do is set you self a goal in life. Say, I want to be a doctor, or an engineer like myself, and then focus on this goal using all the opportunity society provides you with. Eventually you will succeed. It is hard because, it requires hard work, dedication and determination. It requires resisting all the temptations and distractions you young people face in school and college. It requires strength of character and strong sense of purpose. All of which can be very challenge for young people. But it can be done. You will succeed if you try hard. So you too must play your part.
Now the role of the family. It is the responsibility of your family (here I’m talking of the parents, guardians and older members of the family) to provide you with moral, spiritual and material resources that will help build your capacity. It is their duty to provide you with guidance, security, food, clothing, shelter and all you need for your education. It is their duty to see you successfully through your education. Now it is compulsory for all children to be educated until JSS3. They should do their best to see you beyond this level.
The society has a role to play too. Society must create a conducive environment for education by imbibing the values of good education in the people and ensuring that all impediments to education -physical, religious, social, economical or cultural – are removed.
The state has a key role to play in building the human resource capacity of its citizens – in many ways the most important role. My view on the role of the state reflects the saying, ‘Before you give a man fish every now and again, teach him how to fish’, which underscores the principle of self-reliance. The state should provide its citizens with life skills through training and education that will make them not only self-reliant but major contributors to the development of family, community and country. In short to build its human resource capacity the state must educate its citizens and instill positive attitude and values in them.
Education and training will address the problem of illiteracy, dependency, unemployment and therefore basic poverty and ultimately put us firmly on the road to development and prosperity. This is because our country is rich in mineral resources and has great agricultural potential with its rich soil, productive marine life and good climate. What we lack or need (that has been responsible for our present state of poverty and deprivation) is the right man power to exploit our rich mineral and agricultural resources for the development of our country.
But the type of education and training to be provided is very crucial. We must adopt the right approach. First we must identify the factors working against the education of our children and young people and try to address them. We must examine for instance factors like poverty, illiteracy and ignorance. We must look at attitude towards education by parents and the issue of prioritizing the education of boys over girls in many homes. We must consider and address the problems of poor infrastructure like the lack of good roads and proper school buildings and related problems like overcrowding and lack of proximity of pupils to schools. Another key factor affecting education that needs to be addressed is the problem of untrained teachers who are also poorly paid.
Also the right approach to education would involve recognizing and tackling the challenges posed to traditional methods of education by the technological advancement especially in information communication technology that has turned the world into a global village with an overwhelming demand on society for knowledge in diverse fields and endeavours. These challenges demand a more dynamic approach to learning requiring creativity, resourcefulness and cultural understanding to keep abreast with the challenges of globalization and multiculturalism. Without such an approach our children will find it difficult to cope and the nation itself will lag behind the progressive nations of the modern world. Also if we are to prepare successfully for these challenges we will have to do more than just improve literacy and numeracy skills. We need a broad, flexible and motivating education that recognizes the different talents of all children and provides opportunities for all to achieve excellence. Our aim must be to create a nation where the creative talents of our people are used to build a prosperous nation capable of tackling the socio-economic challenges of this new millennium.
The best way forward for the state will be to employ a holistic approach to education and training that not only takes into consideration the factors just outlined but find creative, culturally and technologically appropriate ways to address them.
With a nation of appropriately educated and trained individuals to exploit our rich natural resources, and an exemplary leadership inspiring the right attitude relating to patriotism, dedication, hard work and public and personal integrity, we cannot fail. This is what has worked so well in some countries in South East Asia which are technologically advanced and enjoy economic prosperity and political stability with little natural resources to boast of. Natural resources can be depleted; human resources, well developed and managed, cannot.
Another great benefit of achieving this human resources development objective is that political exploitation of our young people will become a thing of the past, since a gainfully employed young man or woman with hopes of brighter future is a responsible person who will not allow himself to be used as a tool, a thug, for any mischief making politician or party.
In conclusion, I say to you the pupils, you have a part to play in developing our human resource, play it well. Parents, guardians, teachers, community stakeholders, but above all government players, play your part to develop this country by developing our human resource. If we succeed in developing our human resource capacity by employing the strategies I have described, all the other problems, especially poverty with all its attendant ills, will be solved as a matter of course.
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