The budding youth of Ghana, especially those in tertiary institutions, has lost the zest to volunteer and offer themselves to play roles in the development of this nation and their respective communities.
“What do l get from this?”, “Isn’t this the job for others?” and “Would l get some money from this?” are just some of the questions they often ask anytime they are called upon to volunteer.
It is sad to note that the communal spirit of old which saw students going back to their villages and towns during vacations to teach, do clean-up exercises, provide labour for the building of infrastructures such as schools and clinics and availing themselves to volunteer for any other community engagements is fast becoming a scarce reality.
Volunteerism in this country, in modern times, can be likened to an Okada driver who finds it very difficult to obey traffic regulations: apathy and non-compliance.
Our love for the nation and communities has been compromised and offered for sale. What happened to us? What went wrong?
Inasmuch as l expect students to willingly volunteer by addressing some of the basic challenges and needs of their communities, particularly the deprived ones, authorities in charge of our educational system must introduce community-centered programmes into the national curriculum.
Students and the youth of this country must be made to understand the relevance of community engagements to their studies and foremost, bringing forth the striking awareness that we owe it a duty and responsibility to become solutions to pressing-but-basic challenges under our noses and the patriotic call to become agents of change everywhere our feet occupy.
The University of Development Studies (UDS) deserves a special mention for having taken the lead by introducing community-related programmes into its curriculum. It is compulsory for all Level 100 and 200 students on the four campuses of UDS (Nyamkpala, Tamale, Navrongo, and Wa) in their third semesters to go for Third Trimester Field Practical Programme (TTFPP). The students are divided into groups of ten and sent to deprived communities in the Upper West, Upper East, Ashanti and Brong Ahafo Regions where they spend eight weeks with the indigenes.
The TTFPP connects the students to the indigenes of these deprived communities through community engagements such as going to their farms to till the land, teaching pupils, doing clean-up exercises and sanitation related projects, researching on challenges and opportunities therein, writing reports on critical facets of these communities and proposing ideas to addressing them among others. Presentations are made and scores are given to the various groups by supervisory lecturers.
At the Ghana Institute of Journalism (GIJ), the 2015/2016 Students’ Representative Council (SRC) has instituted the Students’ Community Service (SCS) as a project to encourage students to volunteer to inspire development journalism ethics and imbibe in them servant leadership attitudes. This is very important because student journalists and communicators must be exposed to the needs and challenges of the very people they are trained to report on and speak for. They must also be seen to be part of the solutions to the challenges of our society and not just consign themselves to bringing them to light in the media with the hope that the government addresses them.
It is the belief of the SRC that GIJ as a citadel of communication excellence with its foremost vision of “upholding high academic standards and producing world class professionals for the transformation of society” must move beyond communicating with its pens and lips. What is crucial, in addition to this, is to communicate with its hearts and hands which are the surest bet to transforming our society holistically.
The GIJ-SCS project, fully funded by the SRC, comes on every Friday with visits to some Junior High Schools( JHSs) in the Greater Accra Region by student volunteers to teach, educate and inspire the pupils in areas of academic excellence, sanitation, patriotism and sexual reproductive health. This is where the students get the opportunity to start communicating with their hearts and hands.
The schools visited so far included John Wesley JHS, Jamestown; St. Kizito JHS, Nima, Abossey Okai 3 JHS, Mataheko, Zenu 2 JHS, Ashaiman,Nima Cluster of Schools, Nima,Yohousha JHS, Labone, Abofu Presby JHS, Abofu among others.
Keteke Ghana, Read for Change Ghana and Students Community Service Ghana(SCS-Ghana) which are clubs at GIJ have also involved students in various volunteerism and community projects, especially during the long vacation periods. Last year saw Keteke Ghana impacting on the lives of some basic schools at Funko, Ampataano, and Kanfakrom, all fishing communities, in the Western Region through teaching and donation of educational materials and clothes.
During the same period, Read for Change and SCS Ghana through volunteerism also impacted positively on some deprived schools in the Ningo Prampram District in the Greater Accra Region and the Sissala West District in the Upper West District respectively.
As most tertiary institutions across the country prepare to go on break, l encourage fellow students and national student unions such as the Ghana Union of Professional Students (GUPS), University Students Association of Ghana (USAG) , Ghana National Union of Polytechnic Students (GNUPS) and others to mobilize their colleagues and members to volunteer their time, energy and other resources by addressing some basic needs in their communities.
Of particular importance is to volunteer to teach in some deprived schools to help in addressing the high ratio of the pupil-to-teacher deficit in the country.
It is incumbent on us as the youth of this country to be agents of change and transformation. This can only take dedicated and spirited young men and women to effect. Let us all help in building a better Ghana through volunteerism.
SRC President, Ghana Institute of Journalism(2015/2016)
He can be reached on email@example.com