News / Latest / Titus Banyoh / Tuesday, 17 February 2015 20:38

youthday tiptopstars2

Just like the national day, celebrated on May 20 each year, the Youth Day (YD) is such a big thing in Cameroon. It has since been commemorated (especially by Cameroonian youths living out of the country) and celebrated back home every February 11. This year, it was not different.

Our parents had recounted sweet stories of the Empire Days, similar to we experienced soon after the latter days were over. Each generation may argue that theirs was the most exciting. But, we may be closest to the truth to mention that the 80s provided excellent Youth Day moments which would constantly add warmth at heart when recalled and shared.

Prior to this day, Cameroon’s number one executive routinely addresses the youth during which he exalts them to be a leading force of every good value one can imagine. Whether the message is digested or not, the key elements that constitute this celebration are the same – march past, games, etc. But perhaps, what makes youth day celebrations stand out is how different generations experienced it. More to that, recalling how your generation lived Youth Day is phenomenal, whenever it that time of the year when this event comes up. This writer cannot be indifferent too. He has his own Youth Day experience.

I can still remember my first youth day celebration. Coming from Lower Bafut from GS Mbakong, it was quite a herculean task because we had to travel a great distance. In fact, we had to travel a day before to stay the night in Upper Bafut . I had made a wooded money storage box which we called “bank” in our days. Each time I had a coin, I would drop it in the box. So, on this occasion, I had a surplus. When I had to ’’ broke the bank’’,(this was the normal language used to mean opening the box to see how much had been saved) for my first Youth Day, the money was not enough to take me to Upper Bafut and back - ‘na cry this?’. I cried because I wasn’t going to have the kind of satisfaction Youth Day was known to provide. The practice of saving money in view of the Youth Day was not an easy task. If one didn’t have the strong will, you ended up not having enough money for the celebrations.

My mum was quick to react – “Tai {short form of Titus}, no worry you go go, wipe your eyes,” she consoled me. I felt like a dark cloud was being replaced by a clear sky. Of course, my mum is a woman of her words. She did everything possible to see that I participated in this maiden Youth Day event in my life.

Way back in the 80s, we will go to ‘march’, as it was fondly called with the sum of 1.000frs and still have some change or ‘balance’. But today, I wonder which child with just that sum can have their yoghourt, sugar cane , krukru, adakwa, above all eat bread and sardines. It was on this rare occasion that some of us ate bread and sardines. You were a ’tif pikin’ (thief) if you ate it on an ordinary day.

I was glad because that was the last for those of us from Lower Bafut to go celebrate at Upper Bafut. The following year, our school GS Mbakong was going to be the centre for all schools from that area. Hahahaha!, interesting story you must be saying. Yeah! indeed how nice to reflect back to those days.

One thing with those coming from far off places was that they never had the chance to witness all the activities. The most important for them was the march past. I vividly remember how we would wait under the scorching sun for the arrival of the Divisional Officer who would never come on time. The D.O or Massa D.O as he was fondly called was the number one executive officer of the Division and so was automatically the official presiding officer at the Youth Day ceremony.

With sparkling white canvass and socks, clean blue uniform shirts and khaki short s, we would be very excited to see this gentleman. He was a demi god to us.

After march past on my first YD celebration, we bought items and ate abd the next thing was to head back to Lower Bafut. We were packed in Land Rovers and Toyota Hilux vans like ‘sardine’. to take a vehicle back home and in my case only the Land Rovers and the Toyota Hilux vehicles solved our problems. We will be ‘’packed like sardines’’ and one thing I enjoyed most was when the vehicle galloped in potholes. Why I enjoyed it, I cannot tell. It was quite dangerous because the vehicle could stumble, yet we had no choice. Till date nothing has actually changed on the Lower Bafut-Upper Bafut stretch of raod, nor the road leading to Wum, headquarters of Menchum Division.

When our primary school became a centre for youth day celebrations many parents were relieved .One very remarkable thing those days was that we were exposed to all forms of challenges on YD. It was a kind of freedom day where you did what you wanted, after all ‘’ dough dey for kwa. Some of us were therefore exposed to even gambling. I vividly remember how Neba, a childhood peer used a necklace for one such gambling games. With a 25frs fee, you were expected to place your fingers in such a way that it would not get stuck. If your finger got stuck, Neba had your money.

Now, I have left the village and was in Bamenda to attend secondary school. My school, Government Bilingual High School GBHS Bamenda, was one of the leading State-run secondary schools in the then NW Province and a Youth Day march past centre. In Bamenda, the challenges of Youth Day celebrations were even greater. By 1987 GBHS Bamenda had almost 4500 students as enrolment. Other schools such as Nacho Comprehensive College and Longla Comprehensive College had almost the same enrolment. Every student by then was obliged to take part in the march past. Here we had graduated from the normal canvas shoes to black shoes. It was even more exciting to be part of the march past. Class registration lists were brought to the marching ground at the Bamenda Municipal stadium and your name was ticked if you marched. If you did not, you were severely punished.

Well, as I grew up, my attitude towards Youth Day changed. Preparations geared towards the day had nothing to do with workshops aimed at sensitizing the youth and all was centred on sporting activities, traditional dances and march past. After they left school, what next? No employment! Roaming the streets! Then, an entrance examination into a professional with 2,500 places and we have more than 15,000 candidates going in. Other frustrating episodes for young people and you name them. With these on my mind, I soon told myself Youth Day should be reconsidered else, it will be turning youths around with no positive impact.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 21:22

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