YOUTH ENGAGEMENT IN NATIONAL AFFAIRS:

A STEP TOWARDS A THRIVING SOCIETY AND SUSTAINABILITY 

The resolutions arrived at towards the culmination of the Major National  Dialogue was met with praise by some, and with disdain by others who felt more  had to be done, especially on the part of the government. Unarguably, the agenda of the Dialogue was primarily centred on finding resolves for the  ongoing conflict in the North West and South West Regions, a conflict which  has had very devastating effects on the denizens of the affected area, especially  on the youth. One fact is certain though: the youth were kept at bay during all  the discussions and negotiations. Decisions were made and agreements were  arrived at without any opinion or feedback from the youth who are most affected  by a conflict they didn’t stir. As always, the Silents and Baby Boomers did what  they do best: ignore the Millennials and Zoomers and call all the shots as though  they will be impacted by these decisions they take in the not-so-distant future. 

They tend to forget that they have had their time and it is only right that they  share their experiences and expertise with the incoming generation. 

The Major National Dialogue was a chance for Cameroon’s leaders to address  a lot of other ills plaguing the Cameroonian society, not just the conflict in the  North West and South West Regions, but other issues happening across the  rest of the country, and on a public stage no less. This was a chance for  Cameroon’s leaders to listen to the opinions of their youth – especially those in  the conflict-hit regions – to support them and to act in their best interests.  Cameroon needs to talk about youth underrepresentation in the aspects,  operations, and decisions pertaining to civil society, the economy, and why not  politics. No wonder why Cameroonian youth do not show the slightest concern or interest in the affairs of their country: the nation’s leaders are already very 

content with the privileges their offices offer, to the extent that a blind eye is cast  on the needs and development of the country’s future leaders.

It is critical to recognise the multiple and diverse impacts the conflict in the North West and South West Regions already has and will have on young people and  their human rights. These include, among many others: the right to health, the  right to safety, the right to employment, the right to peace and security, and the  right to education. These rights should have been discussed and plausible  solutions developed during the Major National Dialogue. The Dialogue was the  government’s opportunity to seek out and craft means to strategically partner  the youth to leverage their innovation, creative ideas, labour, and  resourcefulness. Recognising young people’s own actions and their potential to  advance the efforts against the conflict and other societal ills are crucial towards  creating a thriving, sustainable society. There are plenty of neglected and  forgotten citizens out there, and it will be in the nation’s best interest if the 

government in their part can provide expert support to the youth, including policy  simulation and costing exercises, to amend or develop new strategic and  normative frameworks to enable national partners to effectively address poverty  and social exclusion through improved targeting and coverage of vulnerable  groups with social protection programs and assistance. 

We the young people are the torchbearers of our sustainable development; we  are already advocating for and working towards ensuring impactful actions to  drive transformative change, at scale, leaving no one behind. For us to achieve  our target, our leaders, in their fullest capacity, should pave the way for us, while  considering several important elements, such as inclusion and participation,  long-term commitment, and trust. 

Efforts to mitigate and address the impact of the conflict must include provisions  that are responsive to young people’s needs and uphold their rights, or youth specific provisions when needed. More decent jobs are part of the solutions to  mitigate the impact of the conflict in order to reduce poverty, food insecurity, and malnutrition simultaneously.

The most important way that Cameroonian leaders can purposefully engage  with young people is by investing in quality foundational education. To do this,  the pedagogy of education in Cameroon must change. Foundational learning  must reflect the needs of the local economy, but also help Cameroonian youth  compete globally. Education must focus on key competencies, such as literacy,  analytics, problem-solving and critical thinking. These skills are necessary for  completing higher education and vocational training, as well as increasing  employability. These skills are also the foundation for the innovations needed  in any crisis recovery. 

Civil society organisations (CSO’s) were also largely underrepresented in the  Major National Dialogue. Representatives from CSO’s ought to have  participated in the Dialogue. They are better positioned to provide insights as to  the happenings in the conflict-hit regions. Worth noting is that the conflict in the  North West and South West Regions have put even more pressure on the  universality and quality of education systems – and on the capacity of the  Cameroonian government to track and respond to those impacts – civil society organisations can play an important role in ensuring that crisis response is  targeted to the most vulnerable and sustained through the recovery phase. 

To play this role, however, it is vital that civil society organisations be supported  to advocate for measures to protect and prioritize the most vulnerable – including using their influence to inform government priorities in the emergency  and recovery phases of the conflict. Budget monitoring, grassroots social  mobilization, and tracking the quality and reach of service delivery will all be  important elements of civic engagement to rebuild education during and after  the conflict.

Civic organisations must be able to ask: How are public resources – especially  in the education sector – reallocated and spent to protect the most vulnerable  members of our societies? What measures work to sustain learning for the  poorest and how can we apply this knowledge to improve education equality  post-crisis? To do this, civic organisations can: 

i. design accountability strategies responsive to critical issues in the  evolving policy context, 

ii. improve the transparency, participation, and accountability of  education sector policy dialogue, 

iii. increase the availability, sources, and variety of information to  formulate and act on relevant policy solutions, and 

iv. mobilize citizens as right holders to play an active role in monitoring  the implementation of education policies and finance and use this  information to hold duty bearers at all levels accountable.  

The future of education recovery will be built by these civic networks, working  actively with young people and the wider communities to help ensure that  education systems are strengthened to serve and include the most  marginalized. 

Now is not the time to step back from education but to stand with young people  as we tell the world education is key to recovery, essential to protect and save  our future, and fundamental to our ability to innovate our way out of ‘the  Anglophone Crisis and mitigate future crises. The situation urgently requires a  collective response from people who think open democracy can deliver results  for citizens in ways autocracies cannot. It is not enough to bemoan the problem  of democratic backsliding. A stronger coalition of the government, civil society  organisations, and leaders needs to happen for permanent change and a  resilient, thriving, and sustainable Cameroon.

By Mafany Tande Myles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *