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The “Speaker” and marshalls of the Youth and Student Parliament
The “Speaker” and marshalls of the Youth and Student Parliament

Mock parliament prepares youth for future

Last Monday, March 11, 2024, I participated as a judge in an inter-universities debate that pit six institutions against each other at the Justice D. F. Annan Auditorium at Parliament in Accra.

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This report is not about the debate but the Youth and Students' Parliament that preceded it.

Obviously, it is an annual affair developed and curated by the Public Affairs Department of Parliament over the years.

 It is a pity that it is less widely known among the general population despite its apparent popularity among students.

The mock Parliament was part of this year's Commonwealth Day celebration, a relatively obscure date on the national calendar.

Indeed, if I were to hazard a guess, I would say that not more than 10 per cent of Ghanaians, including those in school, would know anything about the Commonwealth.

 Those who know would probably be in the upper age brackets.

On the face of it, the Commonwealth of Nations is a dated organisation as it is made up mostly of countries that the United Kingdom once colonised.

Last Thursday's event at Parliament provided a useful peg on which the Commonwealth might hang its relevance.

Today, democracy is not many people's favourite word, and democratic practice is seen as elitist and arcane.

However, its values of tolerance, mutual respect, inclusiveness, solidarity and openness can yield dividends of prosperity and peace if appropriately harnessed.

This is the territory that the Commonwealth is marking out for its advocacy across its 56 member countries. 

The idea of the Youth Parliament is a good starting point for this ideal.

Supt. Effia Tenge, Director of Public Engagement at Parliament, explained that youth and students' parliaments held a significant place in the Commonwealth due to their rich history and undeniable value in shaping the future leaders of member countries.

"These platforms provide a unique opportunity for young individuals to engage in parliamentary practices, foster leadership skills and promote democratic values.

Throughout the history of the Commonwealth, youth and students' parliaments have played a pivotal role in empowering the next generation of leaders," she said.

Monday's Youth Parliament was an exciting coming together of young people to discuss and debate various issues of importance.

It mimicked a typical parliamentary session with minority and majority sides.

The marshals escorting the "Speaker" were aptly dressed, and the Speaker behaved with the authority of Alban Bagbin, the real Speaker, in full flow.

The "MPs" had been schooled in parliamentary procedure and played their roles with impeccable acting skills and insights into the work of Parliament.

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 The organisers and coaches deserve commendation as well.

The session aimed to provide a platform for young people to express their views, develop their leadership skills, and engage in democratic processes.

Research shows that the concept of youth and students' parliaments within the Commonwealth dates back to the mid-20th century when numerous countries gained independence and sought to involve young people in the political process.

These parliaments were established as platforms for students and young individuals to voice their opinions, discuss issues of national and international importance, and propose solutions to societal challenges.

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The Commonwealth, with its strong emphasis on democracy and youth empowerment, quickly embraced the idea of youth and students' parliaments as a means to nurture future leaders.

One of the primary values of youth and students' parliaments lies in their ability to provide a platform for young people to participate actively in the democratic process.

By engaging in debates, drafting resolutions and proposing policies, participants in these parliaments gain firsthand experience in parliamentary procedures and democratic governance.

This hands-on experience enhances their understanding of political systems and instils a sense of civic responsibility and active citizenship.

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Moreover, youth and student parliaments serve as breeding grounds for leadership development. Participants have the opportunity to hone their public speaking, negotiation, and teamwork skills, which are essential for effective leadership.

Young individuals learn to navigate complex political scenarios, build consensus and articulate their visions for a better future by taking on roles such as speakers, committee chairs or even prime ministers for a day.

These experiences are invaluable in shaping the leadership qualities of tomorrow's decision-makers.

Another critical aspect of the value of youth and students' parliaments is their role in fostering international understanding and cooperation.

The Commonwealth's diverse membership spanning different continents and cultures provides a unique backdrop for young individuals to interact with their peers worldwide.

Through participation in youth and students' parliaments, young people can exchange ideas, learn about different perspectives and build networks that transcend national boundaries.

These interactions promote cultural exchange and cultivate a spirit of global citizenship among participants.

In the Ghana context, Supt Tenge explained further: "The Students' Parliament initiative under the Public Affairs Department of the Parliament of Ghana is aimed at providing a formalised youth structure at the tertiary level.

It allows students to actively participate in the legislative process, deliberate on matters relevant to youth development, and gain a practical understanding of Parliamentary procedures and practices.”

“By establishing a Tertiary Parliament in universities across Ghana, the Parliament of Ghana promotes its open Parliament policy, fostering youth engagement and the development of democratic values.

About 3,000 students across Ghana make up the total registered and active membership of the Students Parliament".

The idea of the youth and students' parliaments can be instrumental in shaping the future of the political process by empowering young individuals, fostering leadership skills, and promoting valuable opportunities for young people to engage in the democratic process, develop essential leadership qualities and build networks across borders.

The Commonwealth continues to uphold this specific aspect of democracy's development as a culture through its commitment to youth empowerment and democratic values.

 In this sense, youth and student parliaments will remain vital in nurturing the next generation of leaders who will drive positive change in their respective countries and beyond.

If you are still interested in the results of the debate, here we go: six universities took part.

The motion was that Ghana is taking inclusive measures to prioritise climate change action.

Three schools were for the proposition, while three spoke against it. 

The results were: 1. University of Cape Coast – 812
2. University of Ghana – 736
3. Ho Technical University – 699 points
4. Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology – 673 points
5. CK Tedam University of Technology and Applied Sciences – 654 points
6. Zenith University College – 521 points

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