Located in Western Africa, Ghana has a population of just over 24 million people, of which 10.9 million (approximately 45.8%) are under the age of 18. Ghana has a GNI per capita of US$ 1240 (1).
Youth Civic Participation Overview
The adoption of multi-party democracy in 1992, good governance practices, and an active media have all enabled a thriving civil society for Ghana (2). Activities have expanded from service delivery to public policy work as a result of global initiatives, which encouraged and defined the connection between government, donors and civil society organizations (3). Ghana has an active civil society, with numerous youth and student organizations. Many of these are organized under the Federation of Youth Associations in Ghana (FEDYAG). FEDYAG brings together more than 150 national youth associations, including governmental and non-governmental youth organizations. The federation seeks to unite youth clubs and organizations and allow them to share their common interests and work together in developmental programs, promote human rights and civic responsibility, encourage youth leadership and build capacity in the youth development field, and to promote the general welfare of youth (4). FEDYAG and its member organizations support youth leadership by encouraging young people to raise their voices on national and international issues. Young people have the chance to participate in discussions surrounding issues, project implementation, newsletter production, conduct research, engage in local and central government and to inform society about what topics are of interest and importance to them (5).
Ghana’s National Youth Policy was launched in August 2010, which is based off of deliberations about the policy that occurred in 1999 but was never implemented (6). This policy defines young people in Ghana as those between the ages of 15 and 35. The theme of the 2010 version of the policy is “towards an empowered youth, impacting positively on national development,” and one article of the policy is focused on youth, patriotism and volunteerism. The policy outlines the need to make volunteerism attractive to young people and to inspire patriotism by taking the following measures: allocate resources for youth volunteerism; facilitate private sector support for youth volunteerism; include youth volunteerism in all levels of education; and use volunteerism to develop leadership potential among youth.(7)
Ghana’s National Service Scheme (NSS) has been in place since 1973 and is overseen by the Ministry of Education. It is currently operating under the guidelines laid out in the National Service Act of 1980, Act 426. It is a mandatory program affecting all college graduates in Ghana. Through the NSS, recent college graduates in Ghana are placed in government posts throughout the country, in sectors such as education, health, agriculture and more. The program annually deploys between 40,000 and 50,000 participants for the duration of one year. (8)
The goal of the program is to have educated Ghanaians contribute to the country’s social needs, while providing them with hands-on training in the sectors most pressing to their country’s development. About 65% of participants were deployed in the education sector in the year 2010-2011, most working as teachers at all levels of education. A large number of service personnel were also posted in the rural health sector. This allows NSS to achieve its core objectives by developing skilled manpower through practical training, undertaking projects to overcome hunger, illiteracy, disease and unemployment, providing essential services in rural areas, encouraging nation-building through active participation and promoting national unity. (9)
Ghana has a National Youth Council (NYC), created by the government in 1974. This council is in charge of the formation of policies and programs that will develop and empower youth. The council is responsible for instilling moral values in the youth cultural which aims to make them responsible, self-reliant and patriotic citizens. The Ghanaian NYC encourages participation in an exchange of ideas with youth organizations in other countries in Africa and the world. (10) The NYC has regional youth committees throughout Ghana to facilitate its presence throughout the country. While Ghana’s NYC does not implement wide-scale programs like the NSS or NYEP, it acts as an advocate for youth policies and programs. Among other things, NYC leaders have called for the implementation of Ghana’s National Youth Policy, expanded vocational training among young people, and involved young people in supporting the Ghanaian national soccer team.(11)
The National Youth Authority (NYA) strives to “provide the relevant and conducive environment that defines and supports the implementation of effective frontline youth empowerment practices” (12). The NYA focuses on involving young people in socio-economic and political development. In addition to their services focused on youth, they work with private and third sector provider investment for youth empowerment (13).
The National Youth Policy of Ghana has a section addressing the challenges facing young people, which include: access to quality education, unemployment, violent conflict and crime, erosion of support systems, hunger and malnutrition, drug abuse, vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, and inadequate opportunities for youth participation and involvement. (14) With so many issues facing young people, any number may be addressed through Ghana’s civil society and government organizations. Many of the programs and organizations listed above currently focus on the last of the challenges, lack of opportunity for participation, by giving young people the chance to speak out on things that matter to them.
The NSS has faced several criticisms over the years. It has been alleged in the past that many service members are underemployed and sit idle during their tenures, due to both lack of work and poor matching between participants and duty posts. Most recently, NSS has been criticized for its disorganized database and the method used to keep records of agencies and organizations that serve as host institutions for the national service personnel. A more organized system would allow for personnel to be placed in their area of specialization (15). Recommendations have been made for the NSS to institute rules and regulations for host organizations. Several organizations consider service personnel merely a form of cheap labor and treat them very poorly (16). The NSS can be a useful tool to help both youth and the nation. However, for it to be effective it has been recommended that more research be done, especially in regards to personnel’s comfort, safety and host organizations (17).
Vincent Senam Kuagbenu, Director, Ghana National Service Scheme (GNSS), email@example.com
Rev. George Gado, Projects Director of the GNSS
Kofiedu Mawulison Kwasi, National Coordination Secretary, National Service Personnel Association
Lee Ocran, Minister of Education, Member of Parliament for Jomoro
Charles Y. Aheto-Tsegah, Deputy Director-General of the Ghana Education Service;
Madam Sedina Tamakloe Attionu, National Co-ordinator of the National Youth Authority, firstname.lastname@example.org;
Kafui Mills Odoi, the Senior Program Manager – Program Development and Quality VSO in Ghana.
National Service Scheme website: http://www.nssghana.org
National Youth Authority website: http://www.nya.gov.gh/
National Youth Policy document: http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/upload/Youth/Ghana/Ghana_YouthPolicy.pdf
(1) “Ghana.” UNICEF Info by Country. Accessed: 7 November 2012. http://www.unicef.org/infobycountry/ghana_statistics.html
(2) Jumah, Bashiru. Towards Democratic Ownership in Ghana: Strong Progress in Civil Society Engagement. February 2011, p. 2. Accessed: 7 November 2012. http://www.cooperazioneallosviluppo.esteri.it/pdgcs/documentazione/Repor…
(4) “Federation of Youth Clubs (FYC).” Taking It Global, 7 November 2012. http://orgs.tigweb.org/federation-of-youth-clubs-fyc
(6) “The National Youth Policy and The Way Forward …” Ghanaweb, 15 August 2012. Accessed: 7 November, 2012. http://www.ghanaweb.com/GhanaHomePage/NewsArchive/artikel.php?ID=188274
(7) “National Youth Policy of Ghana.” Ministry of Youth and Sports. August 2010, Accessed: 7 November 2012. http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/upload/Youth/Ghana/Ghana_YouthPolicy.pdf
(8) “National Service Scheme.” Ghana National Service Scheme. Accessed: 7 November 2012. http://18.104.22.168/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=78&It…
(10) “The National Youth Council (NYC).” Government of Ghana. Accessed: 7 November 2012. http://www.ghana.gov.gh/index.php/governance/ministries/5381-ministry-of…
(11) “National Youth Council, Ghana.” Facebook Community. Accessed: 7 November 2012. http://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Youth-Council-Ghana/114503298586351
(12) “National Youth Authority.” Web. Accessed: 6 November 2012. http://www.nya.gov.gh/
(14) “National Youth Policy of Ghana.” Ministry of Youth and Sports. August 2010, Accessed: 7 November 2012. http://planipolis.iiep.unesco.org/upload/Youth/Ghana/Ghana_YouthPolicy.pdf
(15) Hanson, Ana. “Re-structuring the National Service Scheme.” Modern Ghana, 14 September 2012. Accessed: 6 November 2012. http://www.modernghana.com/news/417742/1/re-structuring-the-national-ser…