The National Council for Civic Education (NCCE) has on Thursday urged Gambian youths to partake in political leadership.
NCCE staff advised the youths at a meeting held at the Mansakonko conference hall in Lower River Region (LRR).
The long-day meeting brought together young people to discuss the topic: "Training of out-of-school youths on leadership, civic right and duties to prepare them for transition to adulthood and citizenship."
The meeting which was supported by United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and United Nations Peace Building Fund (UNPF) was themed "Catching Them Young: Cementing Patriotism and Responsible Citizenship among young people."
It also focused on youth political participation and leadership grooming in governance and the culture of constitutionalism, where citizens would uphold and defend the highest law of the country.
Delivering his statement, Mr. Yusupha Bojang, NCCE Programme Manager, hoped the training will promote patriotism, responsible citizenship and civic consciousness as well as leadership skills among young people.
"We strongly believe that no meaningful development, sustainable peace and democratic maturity can be attained if young people are left behind. So our youth have a role to play in political leadership and other responsibilities in their communities," he explained.
Bojang said the political climate of deep polarization and/or partisan divisions among Gambians make civic education both more challenging and increasingly important.
He said civic education is needed more than ever in the country to enlighten citizens to be informed in a bid to promote political tolerance, while adding that they are committed as a civic institution to double their efforts in preparation for the 2021 general elections.
"There is need to provide the information required for the electorate particularly young people to make informed decisions based on issues rather than sentiment and to prevent unnecessary disputes," he said.
Landing B. Sanneh, the Chairman Mansakonko Area Council, said enlightening youths on leadership skills and civic rights was important and timely, while reminding the youth that the country will rely on them for sustainable development.
Mr. Sanneh urged NCCE officials to extend their outreach to "the so-called elites" whom he said think they know when on the contrary misunderstood issues more than the grassroots people.
"There is too much of misunderstanding in town," he said.
Sanneh said leadership is a role of responsibility that involves making good decisions and representing people.
"For one thing I know everybody is a leader on your own right. As youth we must understand, because it is not the chairman who is only a leader. You (young people) are also a leader somewhere in your own right," he stated.
He called on the participants to share the knowledge gained with their colleagues.
Chairman Ousman Sanneh, Regional Youth Council, said the meeting was timely and encouraged the organizers to always engage Gambians, especially youths whom he urged to take the opportunity seriously.
Mr. Sanneh said when youths are informed about civic educations and policy programs it makes their work very hard.
"Because we know, our youths know what is going on and they should be able to point at us from a distance and that is what we encourage," he explained.
He said they are always ready to partner with other organizations to ensure awareness raisings activities are decentralized and conducted in the regions.
The youth engagement continues at Kwinella in Central River and at Wassu and Janjanbureh in Upper River Regions.