By Joe Kingsley Eyiah, Toronto-Canada
“The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.”-Kent M. Keith
The Bible says in Proverbs 22: 6 that, “Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it” (New International Version). Again, Apostle Paul advises young Timothy in the Scriptures, “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Here, it could be inferred that both the adult and the youth ought to support each other to build a viable “community” for all.
The adult should not despise the youth because of their (the youth) lack of experience but rather coach and mentor them (the youth) for successful leadership in our “communities.” Also, the youth have the responsibility to avail themselves to the adult to learn from them (the adult) the rudiments of successful leadership in our “communities” wherever they are!
I have been prompted to bring to the fore once again the important role that our youth can play in our community development by the enthusiasm displayed by the Ghanaian young men and women in vying for leadership positions within our community organizations/associations in Toronto in particular and elsewhere. A good example is the encouraging number of young people who recently contested for and won some executive positions on the umbrella organization of Ghanaians living in the Greater Toronto Area. Most Ghanaian churches have already scored some successes with their youth taking leadership roles in those denominations. However, such successes are yet to impact our larger community as a whole.
It is on record that an unprecedented number of young immigrants including Ghanaians who should be in school are languishing in jail in Canada, especially in the city of Toronto where we have a large immigrant population. I should think the story is no different around the globe wherever Ghanaians find themselves in large numbers. How unfortunate! Some Ghanaian youth both in Ghana and elsewhere have dropped out of school and have adopted street life full of crimes such as doing drugs, shoplifting, fraud, prostitution and in some extreme cases armed robbery. Reasons for their un-Ghanaian cultural way of life are mostly attributed to acculturalization, dysfunctional families and apathy on the part of the community.
There is an African adage that says, it takes the whole village (community) to raise a child? How true! This value should be brought to bear on our parents and community leaders if our youth could play meaningful roles in our community building.
Access and Capacity Building:
As could be seen in political parties’ activities in our homeland Ghana and elsewhere, our young people are/have been displaying a lot of energy and passion for individual politicians they admire. It is my humble opinion that such energy and commitment of our youth could be channeled towards community development. Our communities stand the danger of crumbling if the youth who are our future are denied access to leadership roles in community building. There must be networking and capacity building for young ones who might be struggling in life. This calls for mentorship from the older generation who has the experience and the means to help the young people.
Professor George Sefa Dei of the University of Toronto in his recent address to Ghanaian Canadian achievers honored in Toronto admonished that, “We must allow our knowledge to compel action, i.e., to transform society. It should not be knowledge for the sake of knowledge. It should be knowledge that is put into action to become relevant in transforming society.” Knowledge is power. When it is rightly used, knowledge impacts the community for good. The benefits of engaging our youth in decisions making, projects planning and execution are numerous.
I would therefore encourage the numerous local Ghanaian Churches and Cultural Associations as well as Umbrella Organizations of Ghanaian Organizations in Diaspora (in and around the world, especially in Toronto) to vigorously seek avenues to involve their youth in leadership roles for community building