The Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports (MEYS), in collaboration with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) and the Salone Youth and Adolescent Network on Population and Development (SaLYAN) have celebrated African Youth Day.
The ceremony which occasioned at the National Stadium Presidential Lounge, with the Theme: “African Youth Promote African Positive Values” attracted officials from the government and Civil Societies Organizations.
SaLYAN Executive Chairman, Donald Kalokoh said that the celebrations would reflect on the enormous challenges facing youth and how they can find practical solutions to remedy the problem of unemployment; and to give the youth a conducive habitat for quality education and health care.
Delivering his keynote address and launching the second edition of the African Youth Initiative and Creativity Award (AYICA-2), MEYS Deputy Minister, Dr Algassimu Jah said that the day is dedicated to highlighting issues surrounding the development of the African Youth and a way of acknowledging the urgent need to promote them.
He noted that, government’s overall objective in the short and medium term is to promote the development of youth and create the environment for their full participation in social and economic measures that affect them.
The overall strategy, he said is to ensure that all programmes for poverty reduction in the productive, infrastructure, private and tertiary sectors give priority to the employment and income needs of young men and women in urban and rural areas.
Highlighting government strategy for youth development, the Deputy Minister disclosed that, setting up a framework (the National Youth Commission) for effective youth development and employment policy formulation and implementation involving all stakeholders and the youth themselves at District and National levels.
He said that capacity building and training for unskilled or semi- skilled and unemployed youths in the informal sector; and linking them to job opportunities in the private and public sectors in the urban and rural areas.
This, he said, would promote the structures for effective social integration of young men and women into mainstream society and sports development for social cohesion, cultural solidarity, healthy living and above all, as a source of employment and livelihood.
He encouraged youths to take advantage of the opportunities as they present themselves.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Zainab Bangura said that the adoption by Government of the National Youth Policy in 2003, which aims at creating a level playing field for youth to actualize their fullest potentials, be competitive nationally and globally, and to contribute as good, responsible citizens to the development of their country was not accidental.
She noted that it was a new awakening in Sierra Leone that made the music industry buoyant with songs like “borbor belleh”, “ejectment notice”, “man den dae suffer oh”, among others, by youthful Sierra Leonean artists that culminated in the attendant political ramifications these songs injected in the 2007 Parliamentary and Presidential elections.
UNFPA Representative, Barnabas Yisa said that “we are concerned about the increase in numbers of teenage pregnancies, young people dropping out of school; engaging in crime, being infected with HIV/AIDS and lost in the environment of poverty”.
He pointed out that, UNFPA works closely with the government and other development partners to empower adolescents and youth with skills to achieve their dreams; uphold the rights of young people; connect young people to livelihood and employment programmes and encourage youth leadership and participation in decisions that affects them.