Since the political foundation of the Republic of Liberia up to present, young people have been politically and economically marginalized as a result of greed, egotism, confidence-trick, and progressive tyranny by political actors and public leaders. Don’t be doubtful, I am not speaking to the President of the Republic of Liberia alone but rather all government officials .Let me clearly revealed that people who do not understand the modu-operandi and the erudition of leadership sometimes try to delve into the trajectory of wanting power. Now, this brings into existence what we called the inability for a person to effectively and reflectively deliver basic goods and services to the people. This also brings about insincerity, bureaucratic red-tape (corruption) and bad governance. These antidemocratic elements had led Liberia to a stage of underdevelopment and at a greater extend, youth are the victims of such. Moreover, during Liberia’s protracted civil conflict, youth were madly handled: killed, tortured, raped, mutilated and enslaved. Many young people were used as rebels. They were used by the same political actors who are now enjoying state’s power and resources, while vast majority of the youth populace are in the domain of ashes poverty. At this moment, a young person finds it difficult to be politically and economically empowered. Young people have been used as conduits for making the rich richer as well as making them powerful in Liberia’s body politics. Youth are called upon by the same political demagogues who control state’s resources in an event of wanting to get power, retain power and/or relevance. But, after the political struggle, the youth who helped them at many instances are left by the wayside. Now, their (political leaders) phones become switch-off and homes become barricaded by security personnel and their offices become bureaucratically complex.
Today, it is a realistic fact that young people are roaming around the streets doing nothing. Youth who meet academic preparedness can not find job. In the same token, majority of our females are engage in high rate of commercial sex for survival; while others are now engage in begging from office to office just for assistance. Understandably, there are three groups found in Liberia, namely: living, surviving and existing. Liberian youth are formed in the category of existing-people who do not have a source of income but just existing by God’s grace.
Giving the scarcity of opportunity for young people, our political leaders who had refused to empower the younger generation are the same people now using small cash behind camera for youth to foment violence and instability. This is a saying that says, “He who controls the stomach, controls the mind”. This has being the tactical approach used by many of our political leaders in order to control the youthful community. This approach sometime disunites youth not to speak in one voice against ills that confronts them.
Again, my attention has been drawn to the existence of the County Development funds allotted by the Government of Liberia to the 15 political counties, which I think, is intended for development; not to be over kept and/or pocketed by political leaders. It is saddened to note that these funds in the various counties’ accounts have not been properly used in the interest of the citizenry. In my understanding, development is not limited to only construction of roads and making of farms but rather empowering young people through the provisions of scholarships both local & international. There is a proverb that says “Greatness is characterized by one’s wealth or achievement but clearly one’s ability to positively and reflectively transform the lives of the downtrodden”. Today, many of our brothers and sisters hailing from various counties are crying for tuitions and those youth who managed to obtain their first degree have not had an opportunity to forward their academic sojourn. See for an example, the leadership of Grand Bassa County have embarked on the construction of a modernize multi sports complex in a tone of US$500,000.00, while bulks of students are out of schools. I think it is not the citizen’s priority. This money would have been used to sponsor some students at undergraduate or graduate levels. Human resource capacity building is paramount; it must be prioritized. Because everything we do requires education. These bring into mind several questions, what is the significance of the County Development Funds? What are the statuses of the funds? And why do we elect our leaders? We need to think on these questions and further give fertile answers that will or would awaken the consciousness of our leaders.
When I reflected some few days back within our guiding principle (Constitution), a segment I so dear admire, which states “Sweet Land of Liberty Shall Long Be Ours”. This tells us that every Liberian: young or old, regardless of family, tribe, and political parties must enjoy Liberia’s resources. And I decided to look from a different angle of contemporary governance model-Inter-generational Equity-equal opportunity for both old and young. This model creates a dynamic equilibrium in a given society that invariably brings about peace and security, genuine reconciliation, sustainable growth and development. If Liberia must survive, she must emulate this good theory-Intergenerational Equity.
Along these impinging circumstances here are critical analyses:
Unemployment and Underemployment
The economic growth rate has not been sufficient enough to create productive employment opportunities to absorb the increasing labour force of about 500,000 annually. Most of these are the youth and only about 25% are absorbed, leaving 75% to bear the burden of unemployment. Furthermore, some of those absorbed are doing jobs that do not match their qualification and specialization.
The unemployment problem requires a change a law and provision of an enabling environment for youth to encourage self-help initiatives for employment. Interventions that must be put in place by the Government of Liberia include the following: Reviewing the existing youth programmes to identify their level of operation with a view to make relevant and responsive to youth; Establishing and reviewing the existing youth resource centers for information, recreation and training activities at community level; Initiating and promoting programmes that encourage youth initiative in credit management and involvement in the cooperative movement; Reviewing employment and training policy to offer employment , internship and volunteer opportunities to the youth to enable them gain expense; Private and Government should encourage and promote initiatives from youth groups by providing them with necessary skills ( technical and financial assistance ) to build their capacity; Government and private sector should support and initiative income generating activities by providing youth friendly micro-finance credit facilities; The Government and other developmental partners should allocate funds specifically for youth entrepreneurs; Prosecuting employers who exploit and underpay youth and speed up the judicial process, creating awareness on Labour law and workers rights through civic education especially campaign be organized by youth organization; Promote specialization of young people in diverse fields to create more job opportunities; Establish minimum quota for marginalized youth during recruitment in both public and private institutions; Establish marketing departments in all tertiary institutions that shall serve as centers for career development and Encourage the establishment of Agricultural production and cottage industries rural areas to promote the informal sector employment.
Moreover, this sector shall take part in the overall job creation and employment of the youth; engage in entrepreneurial development; provision of information and transfer of technology and skills. As employers they should avoid maltreatment of young people.
Priority strategic areas: employment creating stand as one of the major challenges past governments had faced as well as this present government. Approximately three percent graduates from various tertiary institutions enter the job market annually. However, due to Low Economic Growth, Rampant Corruption, Nepotism, Political Affiliation and Demand for EXPERIENCE by potential employers, majority of the youth remain unemployed. Employers have exposed the youth to Underemployment and exploitation.
Health/ Related Problems
The youth face innumerable of health related problems including widespread malaria, malnutrition, HIV/AIDS and sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), drug and substance abuse as well as poor access to health services.
The HIV/AIDS virulent disease is more widespread among the youth under 30 yrs of age. Available statistics show that 33% of the infected persons are youth. Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) and teenage pregnancy is a specific challenge to the female youth. They lead to all sorts of consequences including school dropout, and potential risks to life through attempts of abortions.
Increasing School and college dropout rates
Many youth drop out of schools and colleges due to among other reasons, the high cost of education and increase in overall poverty levels, poor returns on investment in education and lack of readmission policy for teenage mothers.
Involvement of youth in criminal activities is eminent to be on increase. Many of the youth remain redundant even after formal education for long period of time. As a consequence, they try their hands in all opening legal or illegal, with some ending up with abnormal behavior.
Limited Sports and Recreation facilities
Sport and Recreation facilities provide the youth with an unquestionable opportunity to socialize, spend their time productivity; hence, strengthening and developing their character and talent. However, the facilities are very inadequate, and where they exist, the youth may find it difficult to access and utilize them.
Abuse and Exploitation
Due to their vulnerability, the youth are exposed to different kinds of abuse and exploitation such as gay, lesbianism, child labour, and other form of economic exploitation under the guise of employment.
Limited Participation and Lack of Opportunities
Despite their numerical superiority, youth are least represented in political and economic specialties due to societal attitudes, socio-cultural and economic barriers, and lack of proper organization.
The youth especially the urban youth are faced by lack of affordable housing in environments that favor healthy living. In some part of the capital, especially Doe Community, West Point, NeKru Town, Freeport Community, Duella, Boesay Quarter, Jallah Town, etc are highly barren region and unfavorable for living. In these areas, there are scarcities of electricity, safe drinking water, latrine, etc.
Limited Access to Information and communication Technology (ICT)
Limited access to ICT due to unavailability especially in rural areas and high costs hampers youth in developing career, business and education opportunities to their most advantageous. Realistically, majority of the youth cannot access the internet for research on contemporary issues.
To conclude, a society where youth have equal opportunity to realize their fullest potential-productively participating in economic, social, political, cultural and religious life without fear and favor, that society positive to progress in all its activities. The needs, opportunities and challenges facing youth are concerns for this Government. These issues outlined present an urgent need to develop a comprehensive and rational statement of youth policy at ensuring that youth issues are reflected at all sectors of national development both on micro and macro levels within the public, private sectors, and civil society; moreover when implemented, will put youth of Liberia in limelight of meaningful social, economic, and political development. In this direction, youth must also create a sense of mutual respect, solidarity and a mind of progressivism in order to buttress the effort of government in the restructuring process in order to place Liberia on the fulcrum of sustainable peace and development. It is time that youth hold their own future in their own hands.
About The Author: Coleman J. Payne is the Former President of the Grand Bassa University Student Union (GBUSU), he can be contacted at: Cell # (+231886893994)