By: Joseph M D Johnson
We say in our LIB slang, ‘ehn you say you fine, day will bray!’
Kwame Nkrumah asserted, “If Africa’s multiple resources were used in her own development, they could put her among the modernized continents of the world. But her resources have been, and are still being used for the greater development of overseas interests.”
This article is not for everyone!I wrote it for a particular group of people being called ‘Liberian youth’-those who have a chance to make a positive change in Liberia. I am not excluded. We were the vast majority of those affected by the war, a large number of those who now feel alienated, frustrated and most considered as vulnerable. If you are not part of this group of people, I share in your emotions to make untamed comments. I understand. I cannot stop you from being provoked! According to Liberia’s NYP 2005, “The youth population aged between 15 and 24 comprises a significant percentage of the population, with those under the age of 15 averaging over 40%.”
At the moment, I am part of this youth population. I was 8 years old when I became a refugee. The hustle started at this tender age yet I was always smiling. I lived with poverty and smelled death. I remembered I was left alone in the bush for almost a year without any family members around. The thing called school was very far from me. I had no sign of hope but I was still smiling. Night tears kept me sad. I was lost in the care of fear. But today, I have a passion to advocate with an aggressive approach to youth issues as a key priority for Liberia and have been conferred the Title: PEACE AMBASSADOR for United Nation Youth Association, recently. This cause of advocacy is strongly established on patriotisms, discipline, and being pragmatic about developmental issues by being focus and influencing government policies.
I’m not happy! It’s about Liberia. I just read the story: “LAWMAKER CHALLENGES ELLEN TO PUBLISH BUDGET,” being published by Alva M. Wolokolie. It is creating lots of questions in my mind at the moment. Alva wrote that, “The President’s statement came as a result of the lawmakers allotting unto themselves in the just passed National Budget US$30,000 each to purchase utility pick-ups for their operations.” Add to this, “lawmaker disclosed that a total of US$3m is allotted to the President as traveling expenses.”
Do you know what I think? Who cares about what I think? We have more work to do as Liberian youth! Can’t say much about political issues now! But let think about our people at the grass root level of the country. What can we do to help them? What can we contribute individually and collectively to their development? Most of you have read the facts. To help you think for a change in Liberia, here are the facts (http://www.educateliberia.org): “Liberia has one of the highest illiteracy rates in the world. Illiteracy rate is about 80%. With an estimated population of 4 million, this means that 4 out of 5 persons cannot read or write.”
“The cost of education is still relatively cheap in Liberia. Based on recent research and studies, the cost of full tuition in most high schools is about $100 which averages out to be $9 per month. However due the 85% unemployment rate in Liberia, most parents or families cannot afford to send their children to school as the average Liberian family earns less than $1 US a day.” Think about this: Are you part of the 80% of illiterate Liberians? I know your response. I can see the expression on your face. It is ‘NO.’ You are not among the estimated population who cannot read or write. Do not ask me why. You already know why. You laugh when you hear our LIB slang, “degree holder, you know book your country dirty?” Once you are interested in reading this article, you are considered one of Facebook’s 350 million active users who update their status each day (“Facebook Statistics.” Facebook.com. Accessed: December 18, 2009). In fact, you have a good income, have weekend chilling moments with friends and love ones. You recharge your phone with money anytime you want to make a call and food is neither one of your challenge.
At the moment, we can’t criticize but encourage. We cannot depend on the older generation anymore! They have and are failing us! Let us love our country and pursue education. I like how Lord Henry Brougham puts it when he said, “Education makes a people easy to lead but difficult to drive, easy to govern but difficult to enslave.”
As a young Pan-Africanist, I have come to reason that a country progresses when majority of the citizens are educated; the country advances if the people stop talking and start working! The country develop if the people start investing their time, idea and resource in community businesses, programs and projects. They become great if the people of the land respect and put their country first in unity, far above tribal and personal desires.
Recently I wrote this abstract in my diary from the Liberian National Youth Policy (Positioning the Youth in Post-Conflict Recovery and Reconstruction, December 2005): “The 19th President of Liberia, William Richard Tolbert, once remarked that the youth are the “precious jewels” of the nation. Perhaps one of the realizations dawning the late president’s mind was that the youths are the indispensable asset of the nation or the index finger pointing to the future progress and continuity of the state. If their growth and development process is obtuse or obscure, it reflects the function of the generic malaise of that nation. Each nation will prioritize the welfare of its youth consistent with its spiritual and moral ethos.”
The first step is to stop depending on government and start identifying educational opportunities. Don’t ask me how. Ask yourself why. Once you know ‘why’ you will act and know ‘how.’ Keep at the back of your mind that ‘Liberia’ is our life, our heart, our love and our world! Follow your dream and be good at what you do. Master your skills and develop your talent. Learn. Keep learning and don’t stop. Run from political issues until your mind have been empowered to effect change. These are the secrets to national development. Listen to Bill Clinton, “Politics is for people who are too ugly to get into showbusiness.”
The Bible insisted in Psalm 19:28: “For thou LORD will light the candle of [Liberia]. The LORD God will enlighten our darkness.” I believe Liberia has now reached to a place where eyes are focused on the youth. We must go the way to a new birth or go the way of death. The choices are up to me and you. Should we continue to let political leaders take advantage of our right to freedom and pursuit of our happiness? According to one of my favorite African poetsI met back in Nigeria during my training with the AU, AkpeziOgbuigwi, in her book ‘Africa Birth Pangs of a New Day, wrote:
“And let the world’s men and women of honor and integrity arise against such and their institutions.
For the oppressed are held ransom by the oppressors
Who have unjustly manipulated international and financial laws
Shackling innocent children and unborn generations to debts they know nothing of
Debts that have found their way back to the countries of origin.”
How To Be An Agent Of Change As A Liberian Youth?
- Manage Your Emotions: No one feels comfortable around an angry young man or woman. It is very important to manage your emotions. See things from a more positive view about your country and try to relax. How you feel towards helping to solve a problem matters.
- Manage Your Time: You cannot make any change if you are wasting your time every day talking and not impacting lives. Find a way to learn one new thing every day. Develop your talent into skills. Time is valuable. Instead of thinking about what to buy with your money, start thinking about developmental projects and business ideas that will benefit you and the people of Liberia.
- Manage Your Priorities: The last time I took a week to ask some young Liberians some simple questions like, “Who do you wanna to be in the future?… What is your plan for Liberia? What do you want from life?” I was shocked! Most of them know a lot about things but know nothing about themselves and has no plan for their future. This included their country. Set your priorities right and focus on them. The old proverb is true,“If you chase two rabbits, both will escape.”
- Manage Your Energy: Liberians are disreputably noted to be people who love pleasure. You know this culture is true. We love to focus our energy on pleasure and not purpose. We do things that don’t seem to matter. You can only help change Liberia if you are able to do things that really matter. You need to reduce your ‘free time’ and focus on your ‘work time.’
- Manage Your Thinking: I love to develop my mind by reading because it is the treasure of my life. I have developed a habit to think about things that are developmental. I encourage you to think for a change. Find time during the day to think. You will find it valuable and your life will progress.
- Manage Your Words: Do you know that every month in Liberia we have a new LIB slang? In fact, if you do not manage your words well, ‘you will stay long inside.’ You have to manage your words as a Liberian youth. When you speak, let people feel the weight of your words. Words can make or mars your life. Words can bring respect. Make your words count. Listen and think before your speak. Be a young man or woman that will speak words that will bring about positive change to your country.
Liberian youth, our days are running, generations are awaiting our success, Don’t sit there. Do something positive everyday!