Misbehavior among Liberian Youth: Urgent Need to Revitalize YMCA and Boy Scouts

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The Daily Observer carried on its front page yesterday a very disturbing story, one that spelled even more danger ahead, in our anti-Ebola fight.

Our Acting Editor, Alaskai Johnson, driving along the Robertsfield Highway Monday, discovered a decaying coffin in the middle of the road. He learned that young people in the area had dug up the coffin because they suspected it contained the remains of an Ebola victim.

They accused the Avenue Commissioner in Schiefflin of “bringing Ebola into our community” by allowing the body to be buried there.  So they proceeded to dig up the coffin, then laid it in the middle of the Robertsfield Highway.  In so doing, these youth, whom some commuters described as “stupid,” exposed themselves as well as passersby to the deadly Ebola virus.

The Health Ministry has repeatedly warned the public NOT to tamper with Ebola bodies, because one  touch of such a body by anyone would instantly mean infection.

Why on earth would these “stupid”–so they have been aptly described–young people decide to play with fire?  Have they really not heard the Health Ministry’s warning?  Then placing the coffin in the middle of the highway, further exposing it to innocent and unsuspecting commuters, is the height of stupidity, mindlessness and recklessness.

The rash (hasty, irrational) behavior of Liberian youth has long been blamed on the civil war, when warlords, beginning with Charles G. Taylor’s National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL), started recruiting six to eight year-olds and giving them guns to fight.  In the 14 years of carnage we were said to have lost a whole generation of youth, many of whom have had little or no home training or education.  What they have learned is to take the law into their own hands, and behave, at every opportunity, in the most erratic and undisciplined way, damning the consequences of their actions.

We have seen this in many places around the country, including Nimba County.  We have heard about the violent outbursts of motorcyclists, many under 30, when one of their people, even if he is in the wrong, is injured in an accident–how they go on a rampage, attacking vehicles and motorists.

What happened in West Point on August 20, 2014 is all too fresh in our minds.  Stone-throwing young people attacked heavily armed police and soldiers and things, most unfortunately, quickly got out of hand when two youths were shot, one fatally.

When the Voker Mission community in Paynesville was attacked by armed robbers last weekend,  Daily Observer investigators covered the story.  One of the complaints we first heard was from community elders: the division among their young people–who have always quarreled and fought among themselves.  If such a state of affairs did not exist, said many of the community women, these youth would have formed vigilante groups to protect their community from armed robbers and other harmful elements.

What all of this tells us is that there is an urgent need to revitalize our youth organizations and plant them in communities throughout the country, in order to instill in them some discipline, sense of personal and social responsibility and direction.

We speak particularly of the Liberia YMCA, the Boy Scouts of Liberia, the National Girl Guides Association and such other groups. We are NOT talking so much about some of the well known youth and student groups that have made it their chief preoccupation to get involved in politics.  We are talking about youth organizations that are seriously interested in teaching the youth good behavior and manners, leadership, civic and social responsibility.  We need youth organizations which make it their business to engage young people in constructive social action that will elevate them from the norm and prepare them for good citizenship.

We call on all community leaders and all youth leaders in throughout the country to organize their youth in these ways.

We further call on the YMCA, the Boy Scouts and the Girl Guides to rekindle their youth programs and plant them everywhere.

We further urge all businesses, public and private, to lend their moral and financial support this effort, in a determined bid to help create in Liberian youth a sense of discipline, direction and purpose, yea good citizenship.

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