MONROVIA-Thursday, June 30, 2022, at the Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Ministerial Complex in Oldest Congo Town, outside Monrovia, the Liberian Government officially launched what it called “At-Risk-Youth Program”.
This Program in the view of many Liberians if not all, is the biggest plan which will target hundreds of At-Risk Youth, also known as disadvantaged youth or in our Liberian word “Zogos” to have them rehabilitated and to have them empowered.
At the launch, Liberia’s Chief Executive Officer, President, George M. Weah disclosed that the At-Risk-Youth Program will cause the Government of Liberia and its partners 13.9 million United States Dollars to have it fully implemented.
President Weah during the launch on behalf of the Liberian Government committed one million United States Dollars as an initial amount to the program’s fund drive.
The Liberian Leader realizing the significance of the program urged Liberians in the country and in the Diaspora to generously support their government’s effort as the program is crucial and vital to the peace and stability of the country.
Interestingly, President Weah noted that the sole neglect of the At-Risk-Youth poses a serious threat to Liberian society and the security of the nation as well as its people. He also made mention that as a government; we decided to take a robust approach to address the situation.
The Liberian Leader further went on to strongly oppose to the public for referring to the disadvantaged youth as Zogos, stressing that there is an important need to address the issue of narcotic substances and drug abuse, which is of high prevalence amongst the youthful population of Liberia.
Even if I made think for the president, it is from the narcotic substances and drug abuse being consumed by some of the young people in the country that are drifting them to engage in bad practices, abandoning their homes to live in the ghettoes, the graveyards and abandoned houses, not interested in education or to acquire some skills training, thus rendering them unproductive citizens with a hopeless future.
From my personal view, what all President Weah spoke about during that launch of the At-Risk-Youth Program are indeed factual and realistic, and something urgently needs to be done by Liberians holistically to address the situation or else, Liberia will have what I could term a generation without potentials.
But moreover, what really drew my serious attention to Thursday’s launch of the National Fund Drive for the rehabilitation and empowerment of the At-Risk-Youth Program, was the theme under which the program was held – that is“ Reclaiming Our Youth for a Better Liberia”.
It is good a theme in Reclaiming Our Youth for a Better Liberia, which in the minds of those who choose that theme is of the belief that many of young people across the country are going astray because of the use of narcotic substances and drug abuse.
But in that theme, I underlined this keyword: “Reclaiming’. Reclaiming in other words had to: regaining, retrieving, recovering, repossessing, salvaging, recouping, and rescuing, that is just what the Liberian Government wants to do for the many young people, who we are pointing to as the future leaders of Mama Liberia, Africa’s first independent nation.
So with these words in relation to “Reclaiming”, means that the hundreds of disadvantaged young people to be rehabilitated and empowered are off – track and something really needs to be done to have them retrieved or recovered very urgently.
There is no time for this then now because the more there is a delay the worst, horrible and terrible the situation will be for the peace-loving people of Liberia, who are already feeling the pinch of the existing disadvantaged youth or Zogos at the various street corners and junctions during the day and night times.
This program launched by the Liberian Government is a worthwhile initiative that I may join other compatriots to extol and praise the planners for, but how soon will it get into full swing is my biggest worry. How soon in this context speak of time and urgency for the government to hit the ground running with this program.
Currently, the majority of peaceful Liberians and foreign residents are being victimized every day across the country by the ugly behaviors of those disadvantaged youth or Zogos on the daily basis, something that does not augur well for this country.
I know the blueprint for this entire program has been done, ranging from the building to housing the hundreds At-Risk-Youth, how they will be enrolled, the counseling and skills training components, as well as individuals to work there, among others are all in place but how soon will it begin.
Before and years back, the concentration of the At-Risk-Youth were squarely in urban areas, Monrovia, and was in small numbers but as we all can now see their presence and activities are felt across the length and breadth of the country threatening peace and stability of Liberia as their numbers are rapidly increasing every day.
With this rapid increment in their numbers, I am afraid so to speak that they could in a short period of time overwhelmed our security forces, mainly the Liberia National Police with limited equipment and logistics like what happened a few months back in Kakata, Margibi County.
Why am I asking this question, how soon? is from the backdrop, that the soon to be at-Risk-Youth who are currently in the various ghettoes around the country who have not come out are more than those we are seeing on the streets. If you think what I just mentioned is not factual just visit the various ghettoes and you will see the numbers of young in schools and out-off schools in the age range of 15, 16, and 18 trooping to the ghettoes.
To my almost belief following the launch of the program a few weeks ago, I embarked on engaging the direct beneficiaries in several quarters in Monrovia and its environs about their impressions of the program. They termed the program as good but expressed the same concerns of how “soon will it begin”.
A few months back in 2022, a fellow by the name of Julius Mature appeared of the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS) and provided some statistical figures about the number of disadvantaged youth in the country pointing to about 24 thousand in Monrovia and its environs with over 86 thousand nationwide.
If these figures are given by Mr. Mature whether correct or incorrect, somehow those disadvantaged guys are many, not in the hundreds but over thousands and thousands plus who are roaming about both in the urban and rural areas of Liberia.
But why do we wait for the kick-off of the program, I could put forward two candid suggestions, mainly to state actors that would help the nation and its people greatly in addressing the At-Risk-Youth issue, which underlining factor is the narcotic substances and drug abuse.
- The passage of the drug law that has been lingering in the corridor of the legislature, and
- The political willpower
The passage of the drug law will serve as a guarantor to prosecute would–be persons who will be involved in the import and sale of narcotic substances in Liberia with specific punishment.
Moreover, the political will must be there to provide the needed things to security entities to enable them to be effective and efficient in carrying out the duties when it comes to narcotic substances. They must be equipped with sophisticated instruments at the various ports of entry to track individuals bringing narcotic substances into the country.
Finally, if nothing is done urgently to grab the bull by the horn the At-Risk-Youth Program will be an initiative with the Liberian slogan “ As Usual”, sooner or later things will be worst for the entire citizens of Liberia, as the At-Risk-Youth activities are threats to our national security.
About the Writer: Jonathan O. Grigsby, Snr. is a Liberian Journalist, hailed from Cestos, Rivercess County, has contributed many articles to several newspaper in Liberia and currently worked with the Liberia Broadcasting System (LBS