SPEECH BY DIVINE KPE AS THE GUEST SPEAKER AT THE INAUGURATION OF AN ICT LABORATORY AT PEKI ADZOKOE ON AUGUST 18, 2019.
The Chairperson, the Chief of Peki Adzokoe; Togbe Kwadzo Drah XI and his elders, the Representatives of the Director of Education for South Dayi District, the Representative of the MP for South Dayi Constituency, our developmental partners from Swaziland, the President and members of the World Changers Youth Network (WCYN), colleague teachers, parents, students, ladies, and gentlemen.
When I received the invitation from Mr. Aseye, the President of the WCYN, I told him I would first have to check my calendar to confirm my availability. However, immediately, I had to change my mind and tell him I will be here even if I have a scheduled event on this day. I was ready to reschedule any other programme I may have had on today to ensure I am here because when a call from Adzokoe comes, I don’t know which other calls would have been more paramount to it.
I say so because I began my teaching career at this place, and I served here for four years before I was transferred. The fact is I wasn’t ready to leave Adzokoe, but if your superior says you should go where your service is most needed, you can’t object. So, painstakingly, I left. The four years I spent here had been memorable. You were receptive. You were helpful. We worked as a team. You gave me a good company and the opportunity for growth as well. I still hold those memories dear and I will, forever. That is why I was ready to put anything else aside to be here, to see you once again, and tell you; I miss you, and thanks for everything for the four years I had been with you. THANK YOU.
The President of WYCN and members of the network, thank you for the invite. It is an honour that I don’t take for granted. I am delighted to see that this developmental project, the provision of a full furnished ICT laboratory for the JHS, is being led by some sections of the youth of this community. I recall that for the four years of my stay here, we made several attempts to get an ICT lab for the schools in town. We had promises upon promises from many angles, but we couldn’t. Today, I am so delighted to finally see that the JHS now has this provision to aid teaching and learning. The world is fast changing at a speed of light, that for us to prepare our youth for the 4th Industrial Revolution, we need to highly and effectively integrate ICT in all areas of teaching and learning.
Mr. Chairman, although today’s event is to inaugurate an ICT facility for this school, my talk as a Guest Speaker is not on ICT so, let me leave that here and move on to what I am to talk about. But, before that, I am adding my voice to that of the previous speakers to thank our friends from Swaziland, who have been of tremendous help to this project. Thank you.
Now, let me get on to what I am here for – to talk about the theme of today’s event; AN EMPOWERED YOUTH, THE FUTURE OF GHANA.
Ladies and gentlemen, if we take a look at the international human capital index, it tells us Africa has more human capital more than any other continent. It is more so because Africa now has the highest youth population in the world. It means we have the highest human potential that if we can effectively develop and harness, we will experience development exponentially.
The case is no different in Ghana. We’ve a youthful population. That means, if we want to change the narrative of this country, we must focus on the youth and put in all-time investment in honing their skills and talent and provide the best opportunity for them to thrive.
Already, our country is faced with a multiplicity of challenges that we can’t turn to the current generation for a solution; they have failed us. Corruption is skyrocketing. There is so much impunity on our roads. We’re literally buried in filth. People are living in abject poverty because economic inequality continues to widen every day. Violence against the vulnerable like women and children is scary. We see more people, including children, on the street these days than ever. It tells us the current generation has failed us. And the only place we can turn to for hope is our youth (and not just any youth, but empowered youth).
But first, who is an empowered youth? Our understanding of that will help us to know how to empower them. Instead of attempting to define an “an empowered you,” I will instead show you how an empowered youth looks like.
Mr. Chairman, an empowered youth, is that youth that has been given voice to speak when an action by their leaders threatens their future.
It is that youth that is taught to be patriotic, and they put their nation first before any other thing they are inclined to.
In the situation where we now see secondary students fighting ethnic fight, an empowered youth is that youth, who will not join his tribe people in a fight/war against another tribe because he knows violence is retrogressive.
An empowered youth is that girl that society made her believe, and she truly knows that her humanity is first regarded before her sex and that she has an equal place in society.
It’s that child who will not be in the classroom thinking of what they’ll eat at home after school because the parents, despite their struggles, will want to fulfill their parental responsibilities.
It is that girl we have created the opportunity for, and she now understands she can choose a career path that is thought to be the preserve of men.
An empowered youth is that child that doesn’t have to go through the ordeal of a broken marriage.
It is that child the home and the school understand that youth also go through stress, depression, trauma, and they are ready to provide the right atmosphere for their mental wellness.
The empowered youth is that girl who knows that when a man abuses her, she has the support of society. Society won’t ask her what her role in the crime was. They will seek justice for her – whether the perpetrator is the father, uncle, teacher/headteacher, or the pastor.
An empowered youth is that teenage boy who grew up knowing that the woman I am getting married to is not a punching bag because the society he found himself in modeled to him the right way a wife is treated.
It’s a child with a positive self-image because they hear positive words about themselves from members of his house, community, and school, or they are provided with care and love.
It’s that youth who knows there’s a dignity in hardwork. They know there is no shortcut to success in life. They want to do the right thing at their places of work just for the pride and honour of it.
It’s that child who knows that human beings and the environment interrelate, and therefore, their daily lifestyles must promote good environmental stewardship.
The empowered teenager is the one who is well informed about various careers and provided with the opportunity to choose.
Or it is that boy and girl, who society will no longer hide issues of sex or sexuality from, but rather involve them in an age-appropriate discussion on such topics so that they can make a well-informed decision for themselves like Abigail. Abigail was married off to a man old enough to be the father. That was against her wish. It has been her wish to continue with her education so, she thought of running away from the man. But to where? One day, Abigail went to school and heard the teacher teaching about contraceptives. After the school, she went to the clinic and got herself a temporal implant to prevent her from getting pregnancy for the man. After several failed attempts by the husband to get her pregnant, he divorced her. Exactly what she wanted. She returned to school and now became a nurse.
Abigail was empowered as a result of the right information available to her. If we want to empower our youth, then we have to avail them to have access to the correct information. For Abigail, it was the school. She will never have gotten that info if she were no to be schooling. As a parent or an older adult in this community, I don’t know what your view about education is. Perhaps, you think it is a waste of resources to invest in their education, therefore, when the child says I need a pen, you scream, “Stay home. I don’t know what school you are also attending.” No! Even if your child isn’t performing good in classroom activities, they are surely going to get some information that will change their life.
We have adolescent club here. Some of you don’t want to release your children to attend the class. You’re depriving that child of the knowledge they need to empower themselves. I am sure; if Jennifer, a twelve-year-old girl, were to know that a girl missing her period doesn’t necessarily mean she’s pregnant, she wouldn’t have died in the attempt to abort a pregnancy that didn’t exist.
I am also sure we’ll have less gullible persons that politicians use and dump after elections if we empower our children with education.
Data from the International Labour Organization shows there’s a wide skill gap between what children learn in school and what they need at the workplace. Empowering the youth to fit into the job market will require that all stakeholders of education in this town, unite to see how they can give the best of education to the youth so that they can acquire the right skills needed for the 21st-century place of work.
Free education should instead be an opportunity for you to save money toward your children’s further education, not on funeral clothes, latest fabrics, or drinks. Now that SHS is also free, make it a point that secondary school will not be the highest level of education your child will attain.
The Ghanaian societal values have broken down. Empowering the youth requires us to repair those broken values. It is not the job of the school alone. Don’t rely on Religious and Moral Education to teach your child how to uphold moral values. That’s the work of the home and the community first. We ought to model to them what a good moral is – our choice of words and what we do before them.
Teachers, more than ever, our responsibility in empowering these young ones is higher. The world has far changed. By the time we were completing college, most of the things we had learned became obsolete. The world ahead of our children is a different one. It will be the 4th Industrial Revolution to be controlled by AI, where these children will no longer compete with their fellow human beings for jobs, but rather with machines. It tells us our teaching approaches ought to change in order to prepare them for that future. To do that, we need to invest in ourselves to stay up to date with new teaching and classroom management skills.
The youth themselves cannot be left out in the attempt to empower them for the future. You need to understand that you’re the only person who can determine what you turn out to be in life. Your parents, teachers and the whole society can do their best, but if you haven’t availed yourselves, there is no magic they can perform. Read wide. Stay informed. Learn social skills. Have a good network of friends. Stay healthy. Make informed decisions.
Mr. Chairman, in conclusion, I must add that the future that we should empower the youth for is no other time, but now. This is the future, and we should begin to invite them to the table and allow them to play roles.