Compiled by Melvin K. Miller – Results, Learning and Research Assistant
The National Cadet Program in Liberia seeks to achieve the twin objectives of increasing youth employment and building human capacity in government ministries. Implemented by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, in collaboration with Mercy Corps,. the program seeks to help graduating or recent university graduates to gain practical work experience by facilitating a six month internship at a public sector ministry or agency.
In order to learn more about the impacts of the program, a few months ago we caught up with one of the program’s participants, Mulbah Jaygbah, 23, who undertook his placement with the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare.
Mulbah was a Sociology student at the University of Liberia with a background in teaching computer science when he first heard about the National Cadet Program.
At first, Mulbah was reluctant to apply to the program based on his experience of arduous application processes and unsuccessful outcomes. However, after finally deciding to apply and undertaking an interview, he was delighted when he was one of the 100 candidates selected.
Alongside two other participants, Mulbah was selected to work in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare for the duration of the program, where he worked in the office of the Assistant Minister for Preventive Services. Initially, he was tasked with basic administrative activities, such as receiving letters and photocopying. Before long, however, he had proved he could perform computer tasks, and began to be given more responsible assignments.
“The National Cadet Program has been a stepping stone in my life”.
Mulbah regards the National Cadet Program as having made a huge impact to his professional and personal situation. ‘The Cadet Program has been a stepping stone in my life’, he observes. ‘Through the program I learned many skills, including time management, leadership, team-work and self-motivation’. In fact, he is still using the logbook given to him by Mercy Corps, in order to keep track of his tasks and daily activities.
After completing the program in March, Mulbah was one of many participants offered a job,as Special Assistant to the Assistant Minister. During the Ebola crisis, his job took on a particular importance, as he was responsible for supporting coordination between government departments, international partners and health experts involved in the Ebola response. As one of the closest people to the Assistant Minister, he has been extremely in demand – and at times has been working seven days a week.
In contrast to widely held notions in Liberia that professional positions should be reserved for older people, Mulbah thinks that the Cadet Program trusts young people to prove their skills by placing them in positions of responsibility: ‘It’s not the age of the person that’s important, it’s the work that they can do’, he suggests. He also believes that the cadet program challenges the idea of youth as ‘lazy’. ‘There are many youth who want to try’, he said. ‘If we are just given a chance, we can succeed’.