Are we creating the perfect ecology for nurturing militants and gangsters in our towns and neighborhoods? It’s mind-boggling!
The Ghanaian injustice to (and neglect of) our jobless young adolescents could be a tool for the notorious Niger Delta Militants’ recruitment drive or it could create an ecology for children with psychological and social imbalances.
By the way, have you ever noticed the dog –chain sellers and squeegees (the windshield washers) lately in Accra? I am talking about the “zombies” who shamble over your car from the sidewalk, clutching filthy rages in their hands when you stop at a red light. Their goal is to make a couple of cedis .Is it any wonder that they are looked down upon by everyone, from Mercedes-driving businessmen to MPs and to the drivers of climate-beat-up cars? Everyone hates windshield washers but I love them. They’re not a public nuisance.
They’re indicative of national disgrace and society’s unwillingness to have any agenda for the youth. It’s my conviction that we can easily learn about the conditions and values of a society by contemplating how it chooses to ignore its responsibilities and examine how it goes about its business .If the MPs and policymakers can not stand them, then how come they’re not doing anything about it—by providing and putting in place the things that will push these squeegees to engage in viable and meaningful businesses? Outlawing them is not the solution.
Yes, topics like this are booorring! Most Ghanaians don’t want to hear about our children’s plight because we’re in denial upon denial. In Ghana denial is our best defense. But, it will not be long before we will be forced to deal with this issue, especially when we start to create an artificial ecology for the Niger Delta Militant’s recruitment drive in the oil producing areas in Ghana . An idle man is an angry man!
On July 22,2010 on Staten Island, New York, a 14 year- old boy slashed the throats of his three siblings with a razor blade and intentionally set the house on fire before he killed himself and his mother. This is a teachable moment. Yet some will immediately throw some cold water on this news. Some of us are walking around with the notion that it is not important and that it can not happen in Ghana or to any Ghanaian immigrant family in the diaspora, or we have other pressing matters that are significant……yada,yada!
But, would we be able to contain the effects of neglecting the needs of our children and young adolescents especially when their uncompromising quest to be ‘somebody’ can not be negotiated? The fact of the matter is the effects of child negligence would make the United States’ situations look like a walk in the park. In our neighborhoods, we don’t have the resources to contain the fallout social problems. I’m talking about the possibility of our children becoming gang members and candidates for the NIGER DELTA MILITANTS’ recruitment drive in the oil producing areas in Ghana, when the oil starts to flow.
I have been combing through the Ghanaian media but I have seen nothing written or said about the effects on our youth of the society and the government’s neglect. The only explanation I can come up with is we are disingenuously in denial of the seriousness of the plight of our young adolescents because we think it’s Ghana’s own problem and ….……!
Where’s the outrage when our children have been shortchanged and sidelined out of the national development debate?
The plight of the Ghanaian Children, especially those who are culturally and financially disadvantaged with serious social deficiencies, is widely acknowledged to be appalling. It’s a disgrace and unhealthy to the country’s image and future.
But more blunt truth must be acknowledged about the condition of Ghanaian children. They’re voiceless and can not vote and have been marginalized by government after government. This is immoral and exemplifies economic short -sightedness on the part of our government and policymakers.
On one side of the equation are the children who were lucky to be born into well-off families and happen to live in the big cities of Ghana. They have some after- school activities and have the chance to see the outside world through the magic of media programs such as educational documentaries. They have the opportunity to go on vacation and even travel abroad. Their future is more or less guaranteed. The opposite is true for those on the other side.
Unfortunately the majority of Ghanaian children —most of whom have never seen an ocean or an airplane— are not so lucky. They might not make it onto the socio-economic Promised Land. These are the children I’m grossly worried about. I’m worried about their future and their welfare because I know what poverty can do to children’s psyches. Fundamentally, my concern is for when these kids became adults. What role are we expecting them to play in our society and in the mainstream economy?
Pick any small town in Ghana at random, and chances are there is not a single playground or after –school program for our children or our at -risk youths to use. As a result of lack of well-defined after-school programs and children recreational activity centers they are hooked on video centers to watch unregulated and non-intellectually stimulating movies all night long. Or they play video games to indulge themselves virtually in roles that escape them in reality, like soldier, killing machine, auto theft and various sorts of “hero” games.
These Ghanaian children through no fault of their own, have been sentenced to a mediocre life because their needs have been neglected by society and government after government of Ghana .So they’re fending for themselves while our MPs and policymakers are driving around in gas- guzzler SUVs with tinted glass. I wonder if they can see the dog-chain sellers or the other traffic hawkers who walk in the traffic with their sun-tanned apples, donuts, biscuits and other wares.
These MPs and policymakers can easily afford an exotic vacation to any place they wish with their families in tow. In the meantime the poor kids in my village and across the land are making “toys” out of bamboo tress and discarded milk containers and are surrounded with filth.
“But, it costs money!” I knew that was coming. I’m not ignoring or pretending that there aren’t costs associated with these programs. But, we seem to get money for other things like celebrating Ghana @50, and other wasteful expenditures by the government. The children’s needs are more important than anything else! Therefore there should be a way to fund them. What are our priorities?
It’s unsustainable in the long term and socially costly if nothing is done to address the current youth’s situation.
Every year during long vacation, most children congregate at video centers to watch video as their only form of entertainment and activity. This is done at the expense of well-defined, regulated, government funded after-school programs and activities that will be beneficial to societal growth and nurture the minds and skills of our future leaders.
But that is not the case. Sometimes I wonder why children are not part of our national agenda. We would rather have government funded acres and acres of oil palm plantations instead of protecting our most important natural resources—the children. That leads me to question whether or not their lack of voting or their voiceless status has anything to do with how they’re treated in our society. I’m beginning to look for answers!
Yes, you might say:” there are many places in the world where children do not have the opportunity to enjoy a neighborhood playground or after-school programs. Many of them would like to trade places with Ghanaian kids”. But, those kids probably have something to compensate for all the things they lack. Besides, they’re not my concern. My concern is for Ghana to prepare and produce well- rounded, caring, inquisitive minds, with sense of mission and moral courage and interpersonal skills future leaders to handle our emerging problems and find solutions. So if they don’t deserve well-defined after school programs and government-funded vacation and recreational activities, then no one does.
I’m not talking about the free- uniform, free-lunch free- education, free hair -cut and free- everything mumbo-jumbo the politicians peddle in an election season to get votes. I’m talking about comprehensive, well-thought out programs and activities designed for children’s welfare. If we do not, then our children and supposed future leaders would be raised by the internet and electronic gadgets like, cellphones, iPod, ipad and facebook. This will help them Google their way around every issue and every task for answers without thinking things through.
Denial is our best defense because Ghanaians are not good at learning even the most painful lessons-especially if the issue doesn’t directly affect them and their immediate families. But before we sweep things under the back yard, rug, let’s take a look at the price a great nation like the U.S, which neglects its young citizens, is paying. The U.S is being literally swallowed up with biblical proportion by social problems.
For one thing, the United States’ social problems did not just creep up on them at night while everyone was asleep. They are the results of over decades of neglect of its young citizens and children.
The fact of the matter is America’s long period of accelerated economic development somehow forced the nation not to look into its rearview mirror. This brought about the neglect of its young people’s social needs and concerns. As a result, many urban neighborhoods across the land are plagued with gangs, crimes, guns, suicides and homicides.
The availability of guns has also allowed these young adults to go astray and kill each other over trivial things like someone stepping on their clean white pair of sneakers, or laughing at them. They are shooting each other over things like, “he disrespected me by talking to my girl .He cut in front of me on the road. He refused to give up his gold chain” etc. The years of societal and governmental neglect, coupled with poor parenting are coming home to roost in America. I hope we don’t want to be part of that statistic.
Yes, there may be other underpinning factors which are influencing the decay of United States’ socially and economically, that had unfortunately and ultimately worked their way into the other areas of American life. The Wall Street and housing market collapse, which brought the world’s financial market to its broken knees, can be traced squarely to the doorsteps of the greedy employees and employers who were representing American big corporations.
In fairness, with all of its social and other ills, the United States still has room in the top for its kids. There is no country on earth that wouldn’t happily change places with the United States’ “spoiled brats”. Yes, its social problems are plentiful, but there are opportunities for its kids to excel and live up to their potentials. These are the kinds of opportunities Ghanaian kids lack and long for. These are the reasons why I’m crying out loud!
In the absence of proper parenting and social structures to engage the youths productively, there isn’t any social equilibrium, which every nation needs in order to survive. Certainly, there is a price for creating cultured youth and a price for combating crime-prone youth. Our choice now will determine our future. There are plenty of social problems in Ghana, so we surely don’t need more.
But, given the national track record on neglecting the youth, , I don’t have much hope their needs are going to be part of the national agenda because it is not part of our political and social makeup .But one thing is assured, our refusal to pay attention to our youth’s needs would ultimately develop perfect qualification for the candidates of the Niger Delta Militant’s recruitment drive or the fostering of neighborhoods’ gangs across Ghana.
Show me hopeless and hapless youth and I will show you a group of young adolescents who are prone to anger, self-destruction, drugs, booze and less respect for life. Hapless and hopeless people don’t want to love and beloved. Sooner than later that sentiments will eventually get notoriety.
A century from now…… many anthropologists will dig through the ruins of our current civilization and remark: “This country future was ruined by its failure to invest in its children instead of material things and personal gratifications”. The threat of our hopeless and hapless youth on the Ghana’s future is real and deadly if nothing is done now to change things around!
Kwaku Adu-Gyamfi (Voice Of Reason)
*The Author is a social commentator and the founder of The Adu-Gyamfi Disadvantaged Youth Empowerment Foundation of Asuom.