MATTERS OF THE MOMENT: WHO ARE THE YOUTH? – Col. Eddie Nawurah (Rtd) Writes…
Indeed, who are the youth among us?
Most nations try to define “youth” and even make provisions for their development into responsible citizens.
Some nations do not consider the youth as a priority area and therefore leave them to their fate or at best pay lip service to their welfare.
Little wonder then that society has to contend with problems of teenage sexuality, drug and substance abuse, streetism and teenage crime-to mention but a few.
What about the Church? How do we define youth and what provision do we make for them?
We have youth councils, youth choirs, and societies in which all manner of people hold themselves up as active members.
We do not appear to have any serious attempt to clearly define youth and to assist them develop good and realistic programmes.
Frequently too, announcements are made in the Church requesting the youth to meet for one reason or the other. Quite often, children and some older members of the congregation are not so sure whether they are youth or not.
So then, back to the question: who are the youth?
Indeed, the controversy surrounding the definition of youth seems to be justified because there is no universally accepted definition of youth.
One clear fact is that youth is a state of human growth and development.
Consider these concepts:
- The youth are the leaders of tomorrow.
- The youth are the future of our society.
- Youth is an attitude of mind.
- The youth constitute the moving force of society.
- The future is for the youth.
- The youth are the seed grain of society.
Of all these concepts about the youth, the last one strikes me as the most appropriate description of the youth.
I am a son of a farmer and I understand the value of seed grain.
After the harvest, the good farmer carefully selects his seed grain for the next season, preserves it, stores it away in a barn and protects it until the next planting season.
Unless he does, all of these things there would be no next crop season for him and he might as well consider himself out of business as a farmer.
If we apply this analogy to the way we take the trouble to protect our children so that they can survive to be prepared and groomed as responsible citizens, then we can see how forceful the concept is.
The definition of youth is informed by such factors as age, culture and environment.
There could be other factors, depending upon where one is coming from. Of all these however, age appears to be the most practicable and scientific measure used by nations and international organizations to define youth.
For instance, the United Nations defines youth differently from the Common Wealth.
In Malaysia YOUTH is defined as all those young people within the age bracket of 15 to 40 years, while Nigeria’s youth policy states that the youth constitute those between 12.5 and 35 years old.
Back home in Ghana, a new policy is out but still under debate. Our National Youth Policy of 1999 defines YOUTH as “young women and men who fall within the age bracket of 15-35 years”.
How does our church define youth?
In our statute books there is a legal definition of children. I am also aware that the Ghana National Commission on Children (GNCC) defines a child as any person between age 0-17 years.
Clearly, there is a problem with an overlap; some children may consider themselves as both children and youth, while some youth may also see themselves as children.
These are some of the difficulties policy makers create unknowingly in the course of their work.
The main purpose of a Youth Policy is to identify or “fix” a particular group of young people so that special attention can be given to them as an aspect of Youth Development.
The term Youth Yevelopment encompasses the full range of measures taken by the Government, non-governmental agencies, individuals and the youth themselves to ensure that the youth realize their full potential in life and that they are empowered to participate actively in nation building.
Out of a good Youth Policy would then spring specific programmes and projects which would keep young people busy.
I humbly submit that we need to talk about these matters at the church and society levels as dispassionately as possible.
The stakeholders are many, but our young people themselves ought to lead the discussions.
Let us first be clear in our minds about who the youth are, then we can make special provisions for them and assist them to grow into responsible citizens.
Some young people tend to blame the older generation for their woes in life; this is because of inadequate communication between the generation gap.
Therefore, let us seize the opportunity available now to relate better and to communicate more effectively with the youth.
This task may be daunting, but let it begin in the home with parents, but as a church, we have a collective role to play in the development of our youth.
Are we playing that role seriously?
Editors note: The author is a retired Army Colonel who has a vast knowledge about issues concerning the development of the youth in Ghana. He was the Chairman of the erstwhile National Youth Organising Commission (NYOC) during the early to mid 1990s under the Ministry of Youth and Sports.