After months of haggling, not to mention uncertainty and needless controversy, vice President John Mahama launched the national youth policy to great funfare at Elmina. Coming just a few weeks after the dismissal of Sekou Nkrumah, who had criticized the Mills administration for literally sitting on the policy, the administration went to great lengths to make much of the launch.

They wanted to publicise it as much as possible because they want to mark it down as one of the major achievements of the Mills administration. In the run-up to the elections in 2012, you are going to be hearing a lot of government officials thumping their chests and claiming credit for launching the national youth policy.

But if we are all going to be honest with ourselves, we will tell ourselves that the youth policy is nothing to be so proud of. The youth policy is just another piece of paper on which some civil servants have written a few meaningless words just to please themselves and appease groups of young people who have been deceived into thinking that a national youth policy will turn Ghana into a nirvana for the youth.

“The new Millennium provides the youth the opportunity for a new beginning for them to be involved in national development since they are potential leaders of any Nation,” youth and sports minister, Akua Sena Dansua says in her foreword to the document. “Youth development however does not occur in a vacuum. The Youth must prepare and be prepared to take up this leadership role.”

It’s English alright. But I don’t know what all of that means.

For God’s sake the “new millennium” started 10 years ago. It’s not that ‘new’ anymore and over the past decade we’ve lost a lot of opportunities. Wasting precious time launching policies with needless fanfare will not bring those opportunities back. Neither will the national youth policy if our leaders continue to behave like blind men in a cave.

They say the youth policy is a statement of intent, spelling out how government desires to equip the youth with skills, values and ethics to enable them contribute meaningfully to national development.

That sounds good. But do we need a policy to tell us – or government – what the youth need and what the state should do for them? I don’t think so. Another statement of intent is not what the youth of this country need. We have had enough of those – wasting precious paper and ink.

Practically every bureaucracy in this country does work which impacts on the lives of young people. From education to health through agriculture and sports, everything government does should be done with the future (the youth) in mind. All we need is for these agencies to do what is expected of them.

As a youth myself, I believe that what the young people of this country need is not another document which would be left to gather dust on the shelves of some civil servants. We need action. Government does not need to spell out what it needs to do in a policy document before it starts acting.

What we need is action much of it directed at one thing – education. Holistic education that feeds the mind, builds the body and edifies the soul. Education is the only path to youth development.

You can put the nicest words on paper any day and call it a national youth policy. At the end of the day if you have 200 or more students crammed in an auditorium, listening to an overworked and underpaid lecturer who uses lesson notes which are older than his students, your youth are doomed.

Government cannot claim to be committed to youth development while playing ‘chaskele’ with the educational system, as is being done with the senior high school programme. Sporting talents are best unearthed and developed in school. Athletes who are discovered outside the educational system are the lucky ones and they are in the minority. A well-structured educational system also helps a great deal to instill values and ethics in young people.

As things stand now, our educational system is broken. Now, we even hear of students going to be housed in tents? How far we’ve come! Until the problems of our educational system – from kindergarten to the university – are resolved, I am afraid this youth policy government takes so much pride in will make little or no difference. So they should stop wasting our ears!

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