Living In Denial: Youth Development and Matters Arising
Late February, the government of Sierra Leone created the Ministry for Youth Affairs, separating the youth portofolio from the Employment and Sports component. Thus the former Ministry for Youth, Employment and Sports (MYES) will become Ministry for Employment and Sports.
For many, this serves as something to celebrate – after all the APC government of President Ernest Bai Koroma has promised to make his second term “the term for the youth”; to better the lot of the people that worked for the APC to secure a second tenure. Therefore, a Ministry for Youth Affairs could only be appropriate.
However, it is one thing creating a new ministry and another running one. I have maintained that youth development will remain a discussion topic without real work within the politics of African governments. In much of the African continent, Youth Development has been reduced or equalled to excellence in sports, especially football. So in many cases, where you have the youth portfolio combined with sports, what happens in that, the youth budget is added to the sports budget. Real non-sports related work by the ministry is not relevant.
In my own Ghana, the case is not different, but my concern for the youth of Sierra Leone is that, it seem there was no plan to separate the MYES other than for political reasons.
Two years in Sierra Leone is not enough to know all the problems that the youth of this country faces – for one no one is sure what the exact youth population is; depending on who you speak with, the youth population of Sierra Leone is 33-51% of the population. Youth is defined as 15-35 years. Perhaps the problem is not even defining what youth is but the fact that which every statistic you choose, whether 33 or 51 percent, half of that population is in school or dropped out of school, the other half is unemployed.
The average unemployed graduate can not write a good CV or cover letter further compounding the unemployment situation. While the Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) has instituted a “local content” policy that seek to guarantee some amount of middle and upper level management positions for Sierra Leoneans, the human resource capacity is poor to be able to fill the position which are usually filled by Ghanaians and Nigerians.
So the real youth development needs are focused around youth employment, personal development skills – what I define as “providing training that leads to the growth of a person beyond what is provided in the classroom”. These include public speaking, CV development, critical writing, internships and volunteer opportunities, interview skills, among others.
My organisation having identified some of these problems, is slowly working towards contributing to bringing what is the core need of Youth in Sierra Leone. ACIPP West Africa since October 2012 has trained more than 500 students in their graduating year – the people that most need to be trained in how to prepare for the limited job market.
So far, we have enjoyed a lukewarm attitude to our approach – in fact in 2011, the MYES was very open to our work until the realisation that we did not bring a pot of money coming from The Netherlands. We have received less and less support while at the local level we have gained support at the schools that benefit from our training.
Our partners- especially organisations that receive interns from us have shown more support and patience with how our work and us working to understand how they work and the trying conditions under which they work.
The lukewarm attitude notwithstanding, ACIPP is comfortable in Sierra Leone and looking to forward to the new Ministry for Youth Affairs to set up shop. We are excited to take our training to organisations – so in March – April ACIPP is providing 3-weeks of training selected groups and organisations in Freetown.
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S. Eyram Tsike-Sossah holds Msc Political Science from the University of Amsterdam. He is the author of “Youth and Local Governance: Youth Participation in Local Governance: Bringing Youth to Decision Making in Sierra Leone“
This blog is my personal page; the content therefore are my responsibility. Any statement made here is in my personal capacity and not that of ACIPP West Africa in Ghana, Sierra Leone or Liberia. I bear sole responsibility for any misrepresentation.