It is true that we are different in the languages we speak. It is also truer that we find both the poor and rich, educated and uneducated, patriotic and unpatriotic youths in all the different tribes and cultural backgrounds we have. Despite the different and cultural backgrounds, each and every one of us has the same hopes, dreams and desires. We want to live in peace and feel safe in our homes. We do not want to be hungry and poor and above all, we want to be self-governing; we don’t want to be ruled by other countries. From the above therefore, we can observe that our main needs as Cameroonians and Africans are above our differences.
Looking around Africa, Cameroon in particular, we observe that the youths have resigned from their responsibilities. The failure we observe nowadays in Africa and Cameroon precisely, can be attributed to corruption, tribalism, alcoholism, cigarette, prostitution, school dropouts, increase illiteracy and greedy political practices. These are some indicators that the youths have resigned from being responsible and are gradually becoming a nightmare to their societies and families.
Can the youths build a new country through meaningful change of mentality and effective self-governance?
The youths of Africa and Cameroon have to work towards becoming responsible, becoming good leaders, a guide and role model for their communities. Youths have to be knowledgeable in order to be empowered on the necessity of being protectors of their fellow citizens, being at the forefront of community service, and becoming responsible patriots in order to join the train of development and global growth and peace. Youths of Africa have to empower themselves in order to serve their nations just as oxygenated and unadulterated blood serves the body.
Effective self-governance is the foundation for meaningful development and effective governance.
Many definitions can be given to the term “youth” by many different people and in different contexts. It can be measured by age as well as it can be measured my strength.
A Responsible Youth
According to a newspaper report, 500 million litres of Alcohol were sold in Cameroon in 2012, to a population of barely 20 million inhabitants and in which a good number live in abject poverty. If we were to take the statistics of corruption, school dropout, illiteracy and cigarette smoking, we would reach the conclusion that, almost every vice is on the rise. This is a sign of growing irresponsibility.
Who therefore can be qualified as a responsible youth?
A responsible youth to my opinion, is far from being someone measured by age or physical strength; it is someone who thinks and works for the development of his society and the wellbeing of his fellow citizens and for all humans wherever they find themselves. This can be possible if and only if youths of Cameroon and Africa learn to love and practice the art of education and hard work.
In order for us to answer a question such as “why are we where we are today and why are others above us?”, we would need to join the race, face and embrace the reality in order to have change.
Joining the Race
Education in most emerging and stronger nations of the world has been a vital tool used by their youths to make them what they are today. When you decide to educate yourself, you become empowered by the ability to explore, to plan, to organise, to direct or lead, to budget and to give a transparent report at the end of your mission.
Exploring while educating yourself is a tool of empowerment because you discover things you never realised before. You might discover that you are a good mechanic, a good journalist, a good artist, a good carpenter, a good negotiator; that you are creative, that you are quick to react to change and insightful when reflecting on an experience – these are the kinds of abilities necessary for youths to start a foundation of self-governance in their lives, which will eventually be projected at the level of their communities, their nations and continent.
I was intrigued when my Geopolitics teacher, in his late 40s, when in trying to drive away the cowardice nature from us in one of his classes, said:
If I am asked to compete in a 100 metres race against Usen Bolt, I will go. I will go in, not because I am sure of winning Bolt, but because by luck, Bolt can be eliminated if he makes a false departure or in the course of the race, he might develop a physical breakdown. And when it happens, I will walk majestically to the finished line.
What do we learn from this anecdote? The lecturer gave this note of encouragement because Cameroonian youths, and African youths in general have resigned from even trying to succeed. We have become cowards in the face of challenge, in the face of obstacles, in the face of poverty, in the face of unemployment, in the face of corruption and bad governance. We go in for the facile and have given in to the vices of life and consequently we are heading straight to doom.
I vividly remember how some African Athletes from Kenya, Ethiopia; I can remember Maria Mutola, Francoise Mbango and many others, who worked very hard, went to the Olympics and outsmart famous athletes from developed countries like the USA, Canada, and some European nations. They stood their grounds and decided to face challenge and in the end, challenged challenge. Hillary Rodham Clinton in her Living History Memoirs, recounts an interesting and encouraging story about her life when she was barely four years old. Hillary narrates:
Both my parents conditioned us to be tough in order to survive whatever life might through at us. They expected us to stand up for ourselves…. My mother noticed that I was reluctant to go outside to play. Sometimes I came in crying, complaining that the girl across the street was always pushing me around. Suzy O’Callaghan had older brothers, and she was used to playing rough… my mother was afraid that if I give in to my fears, it would set a pattern for the rest of my life. One day, I came running into the house. She stopped me. “Go back out there,” she ordered, “and if Suzy hits you, you have my permission to hit her back. You have to stand up for yourself. There is no room in this house for cowards.”… I return a few minutes later glowing with victory. (p. 12)
This is a lesson par excellence for us to learn how to face the harshness of life. The harshness of life is not necessary battling with our fellow humans, but battling against killer of humans. Late Prof. Victor Anoma Ngu in order to challenge the killer AIDS, joined the train of medical researchers and discovered vahnivax; Nelson Mandela in order to stop the inhuman practices of the apartheid regime in South Africa, studied law and joined the race of restoration of the dignity of the black people in South Africa. We can talk of Mother Theresa, Mahatma Ghandi, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr., Sir Alexendre Flemings the discoverer of penicillin.
Recently, the 16 years old Malala Yousafzai in order to promote the education of the girl child in Pakistan, defied the old chauvinist mentality of the Pakistani men. Barack Obama in order to break the old tradition of having only white president in the White House joined the race for the presidency; we can talk of Prof Leke who has been doing much in the eradication of malaria; these people, were and are all responsible youths.
In order for the youths to be responsible leaders, they must learn to stay ahead of the curve.
Dangers of lack of education and hard work
The social and financial cost of illiteracy and laziness are staggering. Imagine someone who cannot read warning signs on a medicine bottle, a driver who cannot decipher highway signs, a worker who cannot read warning labels on dangerous tools and a voter who cannot read names on a ballot paper.
We need to ask questions before posing an act like deciding to become lazy, getting drowned in alcohol, embracing prostitution, criminality; we need to be responsible youths. We need to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before taking a decision. We need to ask the following questions:
How did the others do it?
Why did they do it,
What are they benefiting or losing from it?
Does it protect my integrity?
Does it protect my family?
Does it help my community to grow stronger?
Does it protect my nation and the lives of the future inhabitants – your children and grandchildren?
What are the consequences in the long-run
Is humanity the overall winner?
The youths are bound to be responsible because they are leaders of today, parents and grandparents of tomorrow. The best anti-poverty, anti-crime, pro-technology, pro-economic development tools which are all aspects of good and effective governance is first and foremost the quest for meaningful knowledge that trains the mind to think.
Any knowledge that does not change the quality of life is sterile and of questionable value. (John Powell, S.J.)
Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think. (Albert Einstein)
Building a Strong Nation
Imagine a youth who refuses to learn, think, be patriotic and humanistic. Imagine a parent who is unable to help the children with assignments, unable to teach their children the love of nationhood, the protection of the family. Imagine voters who are unable to make well-informed choices in elections, who are unable to decipher what is relevant from what is irrelevant to them and their society. Imagine voters who are unwilling or unable to buy and read newspapers, magazines, newsletters, brochures, political messages, listen political debates on the TV or radio.
“Why do you want to go into something dirty and nasty as politics?” was the question put to Barack Obama when at the age of 35 and four years out of law school, decided to run for the senate. “I understand the scepticism, … there is another tradition to politics, … a tradition based on the idea that what binds us together is greater than what divides us apart….” Obama responded.
It is only through consistent and meaningful learning, that we can give a positive direction to politics. If we look at politics, originally, to be like clean water in a clean glass, we would understand that it becomes dirty only when some people voluntarily or unconsciously deep their filthy hands in it. But courageous and well-informed people would filter the dirty politics, just as water is filtered to prevent cholera, in order to build their nations.
Sharing knowledge is sharing power and is being more responsible, it is governing as a responsible youth and the more power we share the more powerful we become as a nation.
Widespread Geographical knowledge
Knowing your nation is a source of knowledge, a source of power that reinforces your patriotism. The beautiful scenery, mountains, lakes etc. The fertile soil, beaches and rivers. The natural resources; oil, bauxite, forests, gold.
Despite its overwhelming wealth in natural and human resources, Africa remains crippled by mass poverty and deprivation because of the African leadership’s handling of the main challenges facing the continent. (Mathurin C. Houngnikpo, 2006, p. 28.)
Knowledge of what you have will help you build effective protective approaches from abusive exploitation because you cannot protect and use what you do not know, and when you do not know, you do not have.
Be Patriotic and be part of Development
African youths should always reflect, think, and ask questions in order to seek solutions to problems plaguing them and their society.
Fifty years ago, China and South Korea were poorer and backward than Cameroon and most African nations in almost all domains. Fifty years ago, china could not manufacture cars and airplanes.
Their youths asked questions like:
What do others gain when we keep on buying their cars, when we keep on buying their planes, when we keep on paying them to build our buildings and bridges, when we keep on consuming their pharmaceutical medicines, when we keep on running to their countries for medical treatment and for vacation?
Are we sub-humans?
Can’t we use our brains and vibrant energies to explore, plan, organise and direct the growth of our beloved country.
Fifty years after, here comes China with some of the most intelligent engineers, some of the most powerful economic innovators. China today has one of the most sophisticated beaches, bridges, hotels and touristic sites of the world and threatening a world power like the USA.
How did they do it?
There is only one answer, their youths joined the race of technology, economic and financial innovation, and today they are among the first towards the finish line. African and Cameroonian youths need to ask themselves the following questions:
Why would an American, a French, A British of my age, impose and tell me what to do with myself and my nation?
As a natural being, what do they have that I don’t have?
Why should a Japanese of my age, living in Japan with no natural resources, no waterfalls, be richer than I am in a God-blessed country with all I need to help some other miserable people of the world?
Why would Israel found in a desert produce more food and have abundant water supply more than Cameroon in an equatorial region with one the second watershed in Africa?
Why would Holland, Switzerland, Denmark, which are smaller in surface area than the East region of Cameroon be richer that Cameroon and the whole CEMAC community?
How did China which was colonised by Britain and Japan be a threat to their former colonial masters?
As youths of this country and continent, we need to discard the act of cowardice from us.
Just as Hillary who with the encouragement of her mother became a danger to her threat – Suzy, we need to scare our fears, we need to be a threat to our own threats – unemployment, illiteracy, ignorance, laziness, corruption, poverty, underdevelopment, and bad governance. We need to be a challenge our challenges, be a danger to dictators, exploiters, abusers of our rights, and polluters of the environment.
Let us give ourselves an assignment, make it real for the wellbeing of our nation, our continent and for humanity before we exit the world, and the future generations will be proud of us.
“Exploring Activity Planner”, online, 2013.
Barack Obama, The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream, Three Rivers Press, Random House Inc., New York, 2006.
Cameroon: The Way Forward for Good Governance, National Programme on Governance, Yaounde, 2004.
Hillary R. Clinton, Living History Memoirs, updated edition, Headline Book Publishing, London, 2004.
James D. Calderwood et al., Building a New Country: The American Experience, The Ladder Series, Pyramid Books, New York, 1974.
John Powell S.J., Fully Human Fully Alive: A New Life through a New Vision, Argus Communications, Illinois, 1976.
Mathurin C. Houngnikpo, Africa’s Elusive Quest for Development, Palgrave, Macmillan, New York, 2006.
Oliver Trager (ed.), America’s Children: New Generation, New Troubles, Facts on File, New York, 1991.
Peter Essoka, Lamentation for a Beloved Country, Miraclaire Publishing, Kansas, 2011.
Peter Essoka, Stand Up! Be Strong! Don’t Quit!,Miraclaire Publishing, Kansas, 2011.
Sylvain Andzongo, “500 millions de litres de bière vendus en 2012” in Repère newspaper, No 330 of July 10, 2013.
The United Nations, The Global Campaign for Good Urban Governance, Concept Paper, Draft 5, 2000.
Awafong Julius Teneng
Yaounde – Cameroon
October 9, 2013.