“My studio is so full you could bake a loaf of bread with the heat,” says Awonatey Hippolite, the exuberant host of Voice of the Youth, a new radio show in Sandema, a small town in Ghana’s impoverished Upper East Region.
On a hot Thursday afternoon a half dozen young Canadians quietly watch Hippolite as he fades in and out of upbeat Ghanaian high-life music between his every phrase. They are volunteers with a charity called Operation Groundswell and are here to see Hippolite’s guests: a panel of four recent high school graduates from the community.
Prosper Agamboa Adudi is the group’s de facto leader. At 24, he is older than his peers by at least five years.
“Poverty is killing us,” Adudi says as a lone microphone squeaks its way toward him. He and his friends are on the air for the second time to discuss issues that are important to them. Today’s topic is drug and alcohol abuse. Adudi goes on to say that some of his friends would “drink themselves out” and describes how serious the problem is in Ghana’s north.
Adudi decided to start Voice of the Youth with his friend Isaac Bukari to empower young people in Sandema and the surrounding region. For today’s roundtable discussion they are joined by Azantilow Awoboro and A. Vida Akan-Yaaminyum.
“We need to get ourselves united as youth,” says Adudi when asked why he started the program. “That’s what brings about development.”
Adudi has been able to book some time each week on Radio Builsa, the region’s local station. “Most people predominantly listen to radio stations [for information],” he says. “We can’t possibly be moving around house by house.”
With that powerful medium he hopes to cover a number of issues important to young people in the Upper East Region. Those topics include unemployment and migration from the north to large cities like Accra and Kumasi.
To tackle both problems Adudi says Sandema’s leaders need to step up and give youth the opportunities they need to start their lives after school. “People who have a lot of experience and have gone far in life should be doing this,” he says. His friends say more work apprenticeships and activities—such as organized sport—are needed to empower local youth.
Adudi has faced his own share of challenges to get where he is today. He says he lost his parents when he was about nine years old but didn’t go into the details. He was later taken in by the Horizons Children’s Centre, a Canadian charity that provides food and shelter to orphans in Sandema, and given the chance to attend school.
“Now I’m done with high school and I’ll be getting myself into university,” Adudi says. But first he wants to give others the same opportunities he was afforded thanks to the Horizons Children’s Centre.
He says young people can wait up to six months to get their results after junior high school. It can also take as long as a year for Ghanaian students to make the transition from senior high school to university. “They can be influenced during this time to do things they wouldn’t do while in school,” says Adudi. “Drinking, smoking and just doing things that would retard their progress.”
Adudi hopes his program can provide a forum for young people to be active in the community and productive during those periods of transition.
Voice of the Youth is still in its infancy but already shows signs of growth. At the end of the first show five listeners called in to discuss topics affecting youth. After the discussion about drug and alcohol abuse that number doubled to 10 callers. If Adudi has his way the response from Sandema’s youth to the program could very well heat up just as much as Radio Builsa’s tiny studio.