With only 53 years of independence, Cameroon is a country still reeking with natural resources and wealth. The overwhelming proportion of potential business opportunities has seen many successful enterprises emanate from brilliant ideas over the years and has led to a rapidly emerging and developing economy. Nevertheless, my holidays back home last December strongly drew my attention to the current youth mentality of the country. I couldn´t help but realize how young people at home are strongly attracted to, and can do just anything for “fast money”. In a country, with a strong determination to completely emerge out of its socio-economic problems by 2035, one is compelled to ask the question: How do we make this plan successful with the trait of mentality of the present day youth? If today´s young people are the leaders of this nation in 2035 then we have a serious problem in our hands, because I don´t see Cameroon´s economy going anywhere but downhill to the valley of chaos if we don´t step back and set the young people back on track.
It is appalling to realize today that 3 out of 5 young Cameroonians will not hesitate to use unorthodox means of getting money. For most of them, it isn´t an option anymore; it is a choice, a goal they are aiming at. Moral integrity has long been kicked out of their agenda.
Yvan, my 17 year old nephew once argued saying, “Aunty, isn´t that what everyone else does anyway? So, why not us? If we can barely make it in this country after a degree and good grades, we are left with no choice but to indulge in the “ Get rich or die trying” activities of this world.” In the same line of thoughts his friend, Blaise added, “The politicians themselves are corrupt… have been highly corrupt for the past few years. Even while in prison today, the public fund embezzlers still have their businesses, stacking millions for them in foreign banks, so that when they are released, they go right back to their posh lifestyles. Me I prefer to steal like them and build me five mansions in a year, rather than suffer and be honest my whole life to end up managing just one little house in my father´ s village without a pension”. To crown it all, my 19 year old, niece Anata defended these thoughts saying that the simple motive behind such inclinations is the fear of poverty. “Even Aristotle said it aunty: “Poverty is the parent of revolution and crime.””
Young Cameroonians no longer want to work hard or honestly use their God-given talents to obtain the fruit of labour. They want it all, and they want it now. From corruption, through corporate prostitution to drug trafficking; the majority is ready and eager to give it a try.
What even baffles me the most is that in the present society, even our young ladies have joined the fast track businesses. A friend of mine, Ernest, told me that if you do a census asking people to declare their property and their sources of income, you will drop dead in shock, finding out that at least 80 percent of the lux houses, mansions, hotels, cars and lux clubs you see in many parts of the country belong to frauds, drug traffickers, corrupt politicians/civil servants, and prostitutes. Even more appalling is the realization that nobody will bat an eyelid when, within a matter of months, you have a fleet of cars, have two or three houses in Yaounde and a hotel in Paris.
In my opinion, before children attain this level of bravado, it means they have crossed a certain threshold. It starts at home with dispossessing the mother of her pennies and it moves to the neighborhood, where children get involved in small theft and acts of vandalism. It subsequently ends up with them paling around with drug addicts, who are prone to taking risky adventures. There always develops some kind of camaderie among children who involve themselves in drugs and theft. They create a fancy world for themselves after getting high, and think they can jump over high walls, walk on water, slip away from the police, and drive around in Ferraris. So it is very misleading to point to one reason as the cause of their drifting into darkness. We usually only see the finished product as a combination of things that has brought them to that level.
With the level at which this has gotten to in our young society, how do you start explaining to a brain-washed, Cameroonian teenager that the fast money track is a lifestyle that will land you dead or in long-term jail at any given moment? A most recent example is that of two Cameroonian women caught in Bangladesh with counterfeit money in their possession. Moreover, a good number of young people, have died in the course of transporting kilos of swallowed cocaine capsules in their stomach and intestines. How else can one make them see that “fast life” hustlers that consequently make it to old age without being imprisoned, crippled or killed ARE rare, because negative actions have negative consequences? How do you make them understand that “Karma is a bitch”?!
I feel for the young generation, because when there is such a high level of unemployment in your country of origin and no light at the end of the tunnel some weak minded people with the love for flamboyance turn to fast life. Unfortunately, their mentors do not prepare them for the shortcomings.
In spite of all these, I believe we have long passed the time when we used to blame the government and system for our destitute conditions. We live in a country where we can succeed if we get educated and work hard. Even modern technology and the internet have opened more doors for us today. There are many other people suffering from the plight of the economic malaise in Cameroon, yet they don´t indulge in such acts. Our kids have to understand that he who does not honestly work hard to step out of poverty in this new era, is just lazy. If you burn the mid-night oil and end up with academic achievements, your education should make you see the glass half-full and not half empty. Why? There is already something in the glass and the same creative energy that can lead one down a destructive pathway, can equally harness a positive end.
The role of the society, parenting and personal choices are all critical. Parents are a child’s first teacher. With the difficult economic environment, some parents cannot fill this void in their children’s lives, so it becomes easier for them to end up in the wrong groups. Many children are left to fend for themselves, and in this kind of circumstance, it’s easy to take risks. Also, it is a well known fact that the kind of policies and programmes a government puts in place to orientate the young people to better horizons is critical for the development of a country.
A good example can be seen in the Chinese folk. Most of the workers on Chinese construction sites around the world, graduated from technical vocational secondary schools. They actually learned skills or a trade from these schools and stick to what they are good at. They perfect their art therefore through practice. Cameroonians don’t need handouts from the government because we have the resources to be able to channel our efforts into something big. We just need the right educational programmes and follow up of our children’s progress, as well as encourage them by providing them with opportunities for them to practice their learned skills.
It is unacceptable that in the present Cameroonian society, a young graduate stays jobless for four years, waiting to write and rewrite national competitions, when there are a whole lot of opportunities out there that will pull them out of the jobless queue. We have to teach our children how to search deep down within themselves and bring out their creativity and be innovators. They need to be counselled and taught to be flexible in their perspectives. The understanding that just because you studied law, does not mean you cannot take on a training programme in management to complement your skills and mold you into what you want to be, must be perfectly planted in their minds. They also need to perceive modern technology as a tool that will enable them to be tomorrow´s pacemakers. Finally, recognizing that the fundamentals of success lie not in growing when things are easy, but in growing through challenges and hard work, is a key to changing the youth mentality.
If we want to be an emerged country by 2035, as our president stipulated some years ago, this cannot be done by merely inviting foreigners to help us build our own structures. We have trained technicians, we need to open schools of architecture, and give scholarships to children to study fields that are most in demand. All of these bring us back to the idea of personal responsibility. Children need an enabling environment that gives them a sense of direction, and not exploit them for ulterior motives. It builds their confidence, and opens them up to good prospects. Therefore as they aspire to be successful, they need to be chaperoned in the process, because success is not an overnight flight; it is a product of consistent, unyielding effort.