Author Archives: Zubah Kollie Yennego, Jr.

CAN MY SOCIAL MEDIA POSTINGS HURT MY NEXT POTENTIAL JOB?


The advent of social media has changed the world and people’s thinking forever. From serving as a source of social interaction to information dissemination and a platform for democratic advancement, social media is now a silent weapon that will either help or ruin your chances into that dream job.

You have all of the qualifications and did a very good interview, but you were not hired. Have you ever wondered about some of the reasons? Technology is greatly advancing, and there are lots of advances or discoveries moving alongside its progression. One of those developments is the emergence of social media. According to Statista, Facebook is placed first with 1.35 billion users, China’s Qzone with 629 million, followed by LinkedIn with 332 million, Instagram 300 million and Twitter 284 million users. These statistics evidently indicate that the social media possess a huge number of users or followers. These users or followers can be put into two categories. The first category of users posts various contents ranging from pictures to texts, videos, personal information, résumés, and the likes. While the first category of users is involved in information sharing, the second category of users checks the posted contents from the first category of users.  For this paper, the first category of users is considered as the job seekers, job applicants or candidates and the second group of users is classified as employers, hiring officers or human resource professionals. Among these networks, Jobvite survey shows that 79 percent of respondents assert that they hire via LinkedIn with 26 percent through Facebook and 14 percent via Twitter.  My concern here is the usage of social media by both job seekers and employers.

Due to the population and the nature of contents being posted on these social networks, employers or hiring officers have turned to these networks to conduct some background checks on job seekers. There is a debate in the circles of human resource professionals on the legality of such background checks by recruitment officers since indeed they rely on the use of social networks.  Even amid this debate, human resource officers continue to use social media to conduct background screenings. In the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2013 Survey  which gathered information from its member institutions on the use of social media for job recruitment, the survey shows that 77 percent of companies that responded used the social media. In another survey, Careerbuilder.com interviewed 2,303 hiring officials and HR professionals about the reasons for the incorporation of social media into their hiring process.  It was discovered that 37 percent of employers used the social media to screen potential job applicants. A report released by the Jobvite (2014 edition of its annual recruiting survey) shows that 93 percent of hiring officials assessed an applicant’s social media profile prior to hiring. The data also revealed that 51 percent of hiring officers considered applicants due to what they found, but 61 percent decided not to hire.

What does this signal to job seekers? What are employers or hiring officers searching for that cannot be found during the job interviews or on the résumés? Many job recruiters carry the ideology that on résumés or during job interviews, applicants will always display their best character or experience.  Do employers search for the negative or positive character of the applicants or both?

Employers are usually in the professional habit of recruiting the best applicants who possess both job-fit competence and good character. Since the social media to some extent provides pieces of information that exhibit the true character of a person, recruiters are now running to the social networks to gather genuine information.  Do you post videos, pictures and texts on your social network platforms with the thought that a potential employer will do a search on you? To a larger extent, you share those posts with an open mind not with the thought that hiring officers will search your profile.  So usually, you present your true-self. This is the genuineness that employers search for. Jonathan A. Segal, a contributing editor to HR Magazine indicated in his article (Social Media Use in Hiring: Assessing the Risk) that employers use background checks to get the clearer picture of the applicant more than what the interview unveils.  Jonathan further argued that social media check is one way to enhance background screening in deciding whether an applicant should be hired. In addition to the research done by careerbuilder.com, it discovered that hiring officers browse applicants’ social media profiles to assess the actual character and personality of the applicants. When hiring officers search the profile of applicants, they do not go in pursuit for the negative personality of the applicants. They browse profiles in order to ensure that the applicant is the best fit for the job.  This involves the applicant fitting into the institutions’ corporate culture and whether he/she exhibits some forms of professionalism. In the same research done by careerbuilder.com, 65 percent of employers responded that candidates’ profiles are perused in order to discover whether they possess professional character. Additionally, 51 percent wants to know whether the applicant is the best fit for the company culture. When employers search, they find videos, pictures, text, résumés and the likes that can either be positive or negative for the applicant. In the survey by careerbuilder.com, it was further found that 34 percent of employers did not hire a job candidate due to provocative or inappropriate pictures and information posted on his or her profile. 45 percent resolved not to hire because of drinking and /or drug use on his/her social network profile. Other reasons were poor communication skills, discriminatory comments connected to gender, religion, race or qualifications that were not genuine. In spite of these discouraging outcomes, social media also serves as a market place for candidates as it is not all about the negatives of the candidates that employers look for. Through candidate’s profile, employers also find valuable information that works in favor of the candidate. Hiring officers discover information like volunteer experience, contents that display professional image, good communication skills and pieces of information that support the qualification and competence of the applicant, and the likes.

What can Job Seekers do to improve their Social Network Profiles in order to suit recruiters?

Recruiters understand that no one is perfect. But it is positive to try as much as possible to detach doubts from your social media profiles. This means, exercising prudence and good judgment in what you do on social media. To a large extent, your engagement on social media is a reflection of yourself. It will either help to sell you on the job market or discourage employers from hiring your services.

Do not Badmouth People and/or Complain friends or colleagues on Social Networks

It sends a bad signal to your would-be employer when you badmouth others. It speaks to the mind of the potential employer that when you are hired, you will always complain at job and badmouth your colleagues and/or bosses. These are against the spirit of professionalism and teamwork in a good working environment.

Do not Display Your Huge Partying Character

It is not bad to post an occasional drink picture on your profile, but the constant posting of pictures that depict your alcoholic drinking habit, use of drugs and or illegal substances is obviously detrimental to landing you a potential job. Employers will not want their institution to be associated with any employee who drinks alcohol a lot and take pride in posting such information on social media. Take it this way, how will you feel when you see your boss always posting pictures of himself drinking alcohol?

Do not Post Nude or Inappropriate Contents

Posting such contents does not exhibit professionalism. Job recruiters are searching for a job-fit candidate and additionally want an applicant that is professional in his or her activities.

Have a Good Usage of Grammar

Employers look for well-rounded employees. The use of good grammar or the display of good communication skills speaks to the employer that the applicant is an asset and can articulate his or her ideas well. So, always review your grammar on social media except your post is meant for a specific group of speakers or just for the fun with a tag.

Do not Post Pictures of Extremist Belief

Employers will not want to hire a candidate that holds allegiance to an extremist group. It even gives a negative image to the organization if the extremist related candidate were to be hired. So posting contents of such will ruin your chance of securing a job.

Political Affiliation

Except you will want to work with a specific political institution or organizations that require you to have a political affiliation, it is advisable  not to state any political attachments in as much it is your freedom to do so. But remember, freedom is not absolute and in the context of developing countries, your political affiliations can be both positive and negative depending on where you find yourself. Take into serious consideration that many organizations and companies in the private sector are non-partisan institutions. Even in government, many ministries, agencies, corporations reject candidates with association to certain political party. Therefore, these institutions will not want to hire an applicant that has a political attachment even though this might be in violation of your right to association and choice. But again, you might not be told why you were not selected as that qualified candidate for the job.

Consistent Curriculum Vitae or Resume

Ensure that the resume or CV presented during application and the ones on your social media profiles are consistent. If there are deviations, it tells the employer that you are not sincere about your experiences and accomplishments. So, always update your CV and make ensure its uniformity in your dealings. Regular updates of CV are necessary since indeed from time to time, things add to your life and experience.

Adjust Your Privacy Settings

Adjust your privacy settings on your social networks to limit tags and open access to your profile, photos, videos, comments and other contents. For instance, you may be tagged in an inappropriate content; your settings can help stop that content from appearing on your profile. This is somehow a difficult personal choice in limiting access to your profile. But again, think about the negative consequences of inappropriate postings/images you are tagged in.

Way Forward

The good and bad sides of social media are evidently in abundance. From the context of employment, social media is now that power weapon at the disposal of employers. It serves both as a reference point of confirming your suitability or unsuitability for a job. In this age of technology and the advent of social media coupled with its daily widespread use globally, it is far too easier for employers to search on the character and personality of a potential employee or a job seeker through the use of social media. What is found on your social media profile or account could be a contributing  factor to deciding your employability. From the series of surveys conducted by different groups and involving Human Resource Managers, it is clear that a positive image or portrayal of yourself on social media builds your chances in getting that dream job. On the other hand, a negative image of yourself does nothing but shut the doors of employment with employers who are concerned of your damaging social media character. This is why exercising professionalism and a sense of responsibility on social media is important as employers are now doing background checks on jobseekers. It is good to avoid negative posts including gossips, badmouthing and complaining about colleagues. Also, avoid posting nude images or inappropriate contents and constantly making grammatical mistakes even though it is social media. While your political affiliation is your freedom, it is advisable as a professional to keep cool on your political association – that is, if you are not into the domain of mainstream politics. Consistency in your CV always matters. So ensure that your CV presented to employers is consistent with the profile information you choose to mention on your social media account. Sharing information, connecting with friends and opening your social media profile to anyone is good, but make sure to control your settings, especially so restricting access to contents on your account and other tags someone might want to link you to. Observing these simple steps should be advantage to you as a job seeker whose potential employer will admire for your professionalism and responsibility, having demonstrated your competence and qualifications for a job.

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Connecting the Minds of Young People (Guest Writer)


Mohammed

The growing rate of the youth population across the world has made them become very vital in every sector of the different societies in which they live. In its publication named: “The Power of 1.8 Billion Adolescents, Youth and the Transformation of the Future”, which was the 2014 State of World Population, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) estimated a global population of young people at approximately 1.8 Billion of the total population of 7.3 Billion. This indicates that young people make a huge portion of the world’s population.

Against that backdrop, they play a very pivotal role in the process of making the world a better place. The document asserts that the present population of young people is unprecedented and the means via which we all meet the needs and aspiration of other people will define our common future.

In the Economic, Health, Security, Education sectors and every sector for that matter, they are needed to propel a sustained development. They have the energy and motivation to push for change and make things happen.

Even though young people are important in every sector of the society, they nonetheless face so many challenges. I am young and therefore know that youth specific challenges are not only unique to my country, Sierra Leone.  In that country, of about 6 million people in West Africa, there are issues of youth unemployment, education and others. In 2012 Sierra Leone, in collaboration with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), published a report titled: “Status of Youth”.  The report turned out to be the first of its kinds to describe or explain the most comprehensive situation of youth employment, education, well-being and participation in the development process. Even the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, which are the big players in the world’s economy (VF News: The China Century and World Economic League Table 2015), still face problems with unemployment and other related social challenges.

MUNPlanet, in its bid to address some of these challenges that confront the youth population of the world, has strived to ensure that young people around the world are not only connected but are also empowered in the fields of entrepreneurship and knowledge about international organizations like the United Nations.

Governments around the world face challenges in ensuring that they cater for the needs of young people. But in as much as governments strive to improve the well-being of young people, both governments and the younger generation must pay attention to connecting the minds of young people. This gives them a united voice to ensure that their concerns are heard and addressed. The issues of sharing ideas locally and internationally but also finding solutions to some of the challenges young people face are central and therefore very important to their overall development.

I have worked with youth related institutions in Sierra Leone and abroad. One of the solution points that I have always proffered to certain problems is the essence of sharing ideas with other young people. By so doing, they share experiences on region specific issues while identifying a stepping stone to solving general problems that resonate across the world.

This does not in anyway indicate that such experiences become a size-fits-all scenario where solutions to the problems of youth in Aisa, for example, are seamlessly transferred to deal with those in Africa. They can be tried and tested to widen the scope of problem solving. This reminds me of a quote from a public lecture by DR. Kaifala Marah at the University where I did my undergraduate course and long before he became the Minster of Finance of Sierra Leone.

He stated that: “If I have a coin and you have a coin and we exchanged our coins I would still have a coin and you will still have a coin. But if I have an idea and you have an idea; and we exchanged our ideas, I would have had two ideas and you would have had two ideas.”

This is the beauty of sharing knowledge. Additionally, this helps to establish cooperation among young people and positively helps to solve their problems. Today, there is a xenophobic situation in South Africa that has claimed the lives of seven people, majority foreigners. Many young people in South Africa want foreigners to leave their country because of the fear that foreigners are taking their jobs. I am of the opinion that if the South African youths had collaborated with other young people from other countries they would have pursued a peaceful means to improving their chances of being employed. Obviously the situation would not have been that fatally brutal.

MUNPlanet has the best approach to connecting the minds of young people around the world. It is an online community which is a one-stop shop for all youth related issues. The community focuses on connecting young people. It publishes job openings, articles on topical security, peace, entrepreneurship, leadership, and media issues. Governments, local and international institutions must model the MUNPlanet strategy that fosters the collaboration of youths. I urge all young people to signup to the MUNPlanet community. There are opportunities for everyone. Sign up here: http://www.munplanet.com

The issue of young people’s collaboration or connecting their minds is very important to a nations’ growth. Young people form a huge portion of the world’s population and they have the energy and zest to move things. With this, they need attention and their plights must be listened to and addressed. We can have a better world if we positively collaborate to solve our problems.


About the Author

Mohamed Sheriff Bah is a MUNPlanet Online Marketing Communication Intern. m.sheriffbah@gmail.com

Liberian Colloquial—–A Need to Legalize It


Liberian Colloquial—–A Need to Legalize It

Since the inception of mankind, the need to communicate has become increasingly important. Especially, with what the world has become, a global village, the urge to communicate has extremely increased. The emergence of the social media is a backup to the quest for communication.  A journalist will inform you about the joy he or she accrues when feedbacks are received from a publication or broadcast. Not only a journalist gets this joy, but anyone that receives feedback (reaction to communication) on job performed. Animals and insects far below the intelligence of man device means to also communicate. You become amazed watching videos or documentaries on how animals communicate especially when pursuing preys, lookıng out for others in danger zones, caring for a new born and many other instances. Animal lovers push as far as possible to learn their animals or pets’ language. Have you been eager to transmit information but could not due to language barrier? I know how disgusting it becomes. At that point, you feel the importance of communication and knowing the language of the receiver of the information becomes paramount.

The Liberian Language Case

The official language of Liberia is English. English is the lingua franca for speakers of different indigenous languages. Liberia has over fifteen (15) spoken traditional dialects. There are variances in dialects or languages and communication.  In their Culture Profile No. 19, 2005 Liberians- An Introduction to their History and Culture, Robin Dunn-Marcos, Konia T. Kollehlon, Bernard Ngovo, and Emily Russ informed that spoken Liberian English has three major varieties. One is spoken by well-educated people and is used in political and social speeches, conversations, and education. This conforms to the English Grammar. The second Liberian English is the nonstandard English (colloquial). This does not follow the rules of English Grammar and usage. Liberians who speak this variety are, by and large, less educated and do not strictly observe conventional rules of grammar and usage. Many of them dropped out of elementary or secondary school. The third variety of Liberian English is spoken primarily by Liberians with little or no formal education, including market vendors, Soldiers (this has immensely changed with the level of education of the new army), unskilled laborers, and those who reside in rural areas.

For many years, discussions have continued to reverberate on the need to introduce a local language that will uniquely be widely spoken across Liberia by different tribes like the case of the Twi language in Ghana. Some advances were made to introduce Kpelle (one of Liberia’s popular dialects) as a formally accepted local language. As this move intensified, Kpelle soon found itself being taught as a course at the Liberia College of the State run, University of Liberia and other universities. Presently, the Kpelle language remains an optional course for studies at the University of Liberia – thanks to the growing interests of the University’s Administration, lecturers and students of this unique dialect. This initiative stemmed from two major factors among others. The first factor was meant to introduce a language that almost every Liberian would speak. The reason was to ease the challenge of language barrier among the populace including the literate, semi-literate and illiterate. Additionally, the second rationale was to institute a local language that is unique to Liberia and has a common belonging. It was proffered with the opinion that Kpelle has the largest number of native speakers and was the largest ethnic group (up to present). Consequently, it would had been easily spoken by almost all Liberians. Unfortunately, this goal was not actualized. Presently, the only language that is widely spoken by almost all Liberians is the Liberian English or Colloquial.

Reasons for the Failure of Kpelle as a National Language

Difficulties in Transition

Kpelle is mostly spoken by people that belong to the tribe but not many Liberians outside the tribe speak the dialect. Many of the other tribes are mostly comfortable speaking their dialects. Accordingly, there was and still is a limited zest transitioning to speaking Kpelle.

Overlooked of Educational Levels

The educational level of every citizen should be highly considered in a plan that directly affects them and especially when that program is deeply connected to comprehension. The makeup of a country makes an introduction of a language unique to that country. Liberia has the educated, semi-educated and uneducated. The introduction of Kpelle to the population was understood from the classroom perspective. The dialect was introduced in some schools especially the University of Liberia. It is very unlikely for a person that has no knowledge of classroom type of learning since his or her childhood and up to adulthood to begin learning a language via classroom. Additionally, there are little possibilities for a semi-educate to return to class and begins learning a new language after missing out on school for a prolong period of time. Furthermore, the language was not widely introduced to primary and secondary schools so that pupils grew up learning it. Generally, one will conclude that the language was positioned for the educated people because they had the intelligence and will-power to learning it. This simply represents a foundational failure as the base of easily and massively introducing the Kpelle language across Liberia became exceedingly limited to the educated few attending University.

Lack of Tangible Programs

Instituting a general language for a country is very different from an individual or a hand-full of people learning a language. The establishment of a vibrant institute that supervises programs is very significant in ensuing that citizens learn a language. In his book “Some Terms From Liberian Speech “Warren L. d’Azevedo gave acknowledgements to Bai T. Moore and Jangaba M. Johnson, two Liberians who were then jobbing with the Liberia’s Ministry of Information and Cultural Affairs for their support in advancing the promotion of the Liberian dialects especially Kpelle.   This is mentioned to stress the role the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism had to perform in the introduction of Kpelle.

Commercial Activities

In his paper on Seminar Topic published in the Perspective, Sonkarley T. Beaie asserted that the Kpelle dialect failed to become a national language because it was not used in many commercial activities. To some extent, I do concord with his assertion. If the marketers that were conversant with Kpelle would have spoken the dialect often durıng transactions, some good results would have emerged. Again, this submits to the establishment of tangible programs by the Government.

Reasons and Steps to Establishing the Liberian English as a National Language

Whenever I am in the midst of people wanting to be informed about Liberia, I am usually questioned about the general local language Liberians speak. Obviously, I am pushed to say Liberian English or Colloquial. Many people have had similar experiences. Definitely, one can safely assert that there is no other formally accepted language that almost every Liberian speaks besides the English language. In an article produced by the Cornell University ILR School named, Some Terms from Liberian Speech, Michael Evan Gold catalogued a work by Warren L. d’Azevedo which gave a general overview of the Liberian English and some terms. This is how the author described the language: “I enjoy speaking and listening to Liberian English.Words that are passive in American English are active in Liberian English. Words that are only specific and concrete in American English are metaphorical in Liberian English. I suppose that part of the reason is that Liberian English makes use of fewer words than American English, so that each Word must do as much work as possible, stretch to as many cases as conceivable”.

Sometimes I quiz myself whether we (Liberians) are aware of the widely spoken nature of the Liberian English by diverse groups? Have we thought to standardize or formalize the language? The Liberian English usually called Liberian Colloquial gets its root from the English Language. Even though it is just an oral language, it diversified over the period. There were inclusion of other words, the disregard of English Grammar, the light and mispronunciation of words from English and many other changes. It has made the Liberian ascent very unique in Africa. The Liberian ascent is very distinct. The language has extremely diversified. If you are not a Liberian or have not learnt the language, it is very difficult to understand even though its origin is English. From personal experiences and experiences of others, people tend to love it due to its unique quality. There are closest comparable of ascents among Sierra Leoneans, Ghanaians, and Nigerians. This is the same for francophone countries. Distinctly, the ascent of Liberians is very unique and incomparable.

There have been calls for the introduction of a national or local language. President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has made similar calls. However, the failure to successfully introduce Kpelle as a local language meant to be spoken by almost all Liberians, points to the advantage for the Liberian English to take its position. This is because the Liberian English finds itself well placed in the right position to becoming the formal local language (to be spoken by almost all Liberians) as it is the singularly most spoken language in the length and breadth of Liberia. This can be actualized if the below mechanisms are implemented. The Liberian English is widely spoken by people from various tribes. It is spoken by the educated, semi-educated and uneducated. An old lady from my hometown in Salaga, Lofa County will have an idea of the language and try to speak it even though she speaks the local regional Lorma dialect. Additionally, Liberian English is widely spoken in market places, homes, streets, even at some places of work and schools, and among students.

Legislative Approval

The Liberian Constitution is not bluntly clear as to how a language should be instituted as a national language. Article 41 of the Liberian Constitution states “The business of the Legislature shall be concluded in the English Language or when adequate preparations shall have been made, in one more of the languages of the Republic as the Legislature may by resolution approve.”  The English language is known as the language of Instruction. Consequently, it is used as the language of instruction in the Liberian Legislature, the government and every sector of the country. Additionally, Article 41 also apprises that when preparations are made in one of the languages, the legislature may approve it in order to use the would-be approved language as a means of instruction. Now, in as much all branches of government are equal, the Legislature stands as the first branch of government and has the authority by the power of the constitution to enact legislations. Furthermore, it stands as the direct representative of the citizens. If a language should be approved by the legislature as its language of instruction, it automatically becomes a national or sub-national language. The legislative approval will also give the language a legal backing.  This does not in any way infer that the Liberian English should be used as a language of instruction in the legislature or other branches of government and places of high intelligence. This is just to indicate that for the language to be formally considered a local language spoken by almost everyone, it needs legislative approval.

Recognizing the Language

It is important for a language to be recognized as a national language not only by the government but also the citizens. In this scenario, where the language is already widely spoken, the recognition should be an easy undertaking. The national government or whatever institution responsible should inform the general public of the Liberian English and its importance since majority of the population speaks it. The language is easily spread when people are aware and recognize it.

Changing the name (Liberian English or Colloquial)

Many will argue that the name (Liberian English or Colloquial) is not ingrained into the Liberian society and culture. It is not deeply attached to Liberia.  A name that symbolizes, resonates or is highly connected to the Liberia culture or people should be carved. This is something that also requires the public participation.

Create the Script

The Liberian Colloquial is not a written language due to the fact that there is no standard or formally accepted script. The language is only spoken. Even though people try to write it from their perspective when communicating, but there has not been a standardized script.  The creation of a script that makes the language different from the English language (even though it already sounds different) is welcomed. Additionally, the creation of a script should involve detailed research, taking into consideration people from every sector of the Liberian Society who speaks it.

Institution of Programs

The creation of programs is an important factor to ensuring that the language is learnt to a greater extent. Programs established should notice that the country has students, educated, semi-educated, and uneducated people. To have a widely spoken local language, these four groups of people should be considered in creating the programs. The students will most likely improve their knowledge in the language when it is introduced in schools. Additionally, national competitions and other programs will aid in the process. The semi-educated and the uneducated individuals’ places of work, social activities and other major activities should be identified. Programs should be directed to those places. Programs that are simple and practical as much as possible should be created to enhancing their knowledge of the language. It is not difficult to improving the knowledge of the educated people as regards the language. They already have the academic ability to read scripts and follow pronunciations. Additionally, they already speak the language.

These programs will be created to further the knowledge of the named categories of people. The fact remains that Liberian English is spoken by almost the entire population. The matter of transition that was a weakness for Kpelle should not be a difficulty. If you went in the market to buy food stuff or whatever, Liberian English will be spoken. It is a major language of communication among the locals. Therefore, learning the language will not be much of difficulties as compare to Kpelle.

Commercial Activities

If you have visited market centers in Liberia, you do not need to be informed that Liberian English is the major language of communication among marketers to marketers and marketers to buyers. Unless the two parties speak the same dialect, Liberia English is the language of exchange. This is very important to the institution of a language.

Conclusion:

Let me note that this article does not in any way disregard the teaching of the various local dialects especially to the younger generation. Furthermore it does not push for the Liberian English to become the main mode of communication in places of intelligence (schools, offices, government, intellectual gathering and other) but seeks to recommend the Liberian English becomes a local language that is formally accepted and spoken by almost all Liberians in their daily lives. I could have wished the same for any of the local dialects if it had possessed the unquestionable characteristics and features of the Liberian English. I wish that parents can also teach their children the dialects of their tribes. This furthers the cause for community communication and solidarity in addition cultural practices and sense of togetherness for the perspective of tribal orientation. As we further the development process, language is also one of the components of the developmental process.

Encouragingly, the unique qualities and simplicity of the Liberian English among Liberians thus become a valid argument to have it as Liberia’s recognized local language. The Liberian English is spoken by many Liberians from diverse backgrounds. Moreover, it is informally considered the general local language. As policy makers think in the direction of a local language, let them be reminded that the Liberian English has many of the characteristics that suit a recognized local language.

USE THE BLOOD OF EBOLA SURVIVORS


I was on my normal routine reading through the online news of some local and international media. Since the intensity of the Ebola outbreak, my visits to the online features have increased. I searched with the expectation of reading encouraging news in relation to curbing the epidemic. Prior to my search, I understood that a group of global experts via the World Health Organization (WHO) convened a meeting on the Ebola epidemic. High on the agenda were discussions on the use of experimental therapies to combat the disease that has snatched the lives of over 2000 persons in West Africa. I went online to abreast myself with the outcome of the meeting. While searching, I came across a news caption ” Use Ebola Survivors’ Blood- WHO” on BBC News. It sounded interesting. In as much vaccines are under human tests, the Zmapp doses are running or have run out of stock, there is still a therapy to hope on in addition to the supportive care given to patients.

In a week or two prior to this welcoming news, I watched the Nova Documentary on the blood transfusion therapy on Liberia’s National Television station. According to the documentary, the therapy was used by some Congolese doctors in 1995 at the Kikwit General Hospital in the Democratic Republic of Congo. When one of the nurses working at the treatment center in Kikwit contracted the disease, the Congolese doctors told themselves that they will do everything within their reach to save the life of their fellow health worker. On a night, they convened a meeting of only Congolese doctors to find a medical means to save the ill nurse. They agreed to infuse the blood of an Ebola survivor into the nurse. The meeting outcome was brought before the international health workers working at the same treatment center.The foreign health workers rejected the suggestion on grounds that there was not advance equipment to test the survivor’s blood for all other diseases. They furthered that the therapy had never been performed in such situation and there was no guarantee that it would work. The local doctors had no other option, but persisted and conducted the transfusion. In some hours, there was some improvements in the nurse’s health. The doctors further conducted the therapy on eight patients including the nurse. Seven of the eight patients recovered. After seeing the documentary, I asked myself “aren’t doctors using similar therapy in countries affected by the disease?”. There was a 87.5% survival rate of the eight ill persons the therapy was used on . ” Why would not it be positive on patients in West Africa?” I asked myself. Some reports had it that a 14 year old survivor serum was used to treat Dr. Kent Brantly when he got infected prior to his departure to the US for further treatment. I got reports that he was able to take shower before departing Liberia and also walked out of the ambulance that carried him from the airport to the treatment center in the US. Is the survivor blood transfusion therapy being used to treat many people in affected countries?

WHO approval of the therapy had me saying ” the Congolese health workers that conducted the first transfusion are the inventors and they need to be thanked”. If not for their bravery and persistence, I doubt whether we would had known about such treatment. Even though it is not widely known in West Africa, but I am of the conviction that it will surely work pointing to the success the therapy had in Congo. If there are rewards to be given to inventors such as these, I think institutions responsible should begin planning the award ceremony for the Congolese health workers who braved the odds to experiment such therapy.

The disease has killed many people in West Africa. The weak health systems and traditional practices in Africa are impeding the fight to exterminate the disease out of Africa. With advances being made to finding vaccines and drugs for this illness, I believe that the approved therapy will help in curing people from the disease. Health workers in these affected countries should be urged to begin or resume the transfusion of survivors’ blood into patients with all the precautions taken into consideration. I am not a medical practitioner, but I do trust the judgement of WHO. I am convinced that this therapy will yield fruitful results. I laud the efforts of WHO in ensuring that medications are discovered and made available to help end this epidemic and prevent subsequent outbreaks. I also applaud the works of local and international health workers who are on the frontlines combating the disease, scientists studying to produce medication, and governments and institutions rendering support to help eradicate the disease. It should be noted that the easiest and most effective way to fighting this disease is by prevention. Staying away from infected patients and bodies, washing hands very often, stopping the consumption of bush meats and bats, and reporting suspected cases are all means of preventing ourselves. If we can implement these simple precautionary methods, I am of the opinion that not one more person will get infected with the virus. We all are hoping and praying we succeed in this fight very soon and go back to normality to alleviate the fears and suffering of people.

NUMBER OF DOCTORS IN LIBERIA


It is usually said that the more than fourteen years of civil war that was fought in Liberia destroyed all fabric of the Liberian society. I undoubtedly agree with this statement. The crisis affected all sectors including the health sector. But the question remains ” how many years have we enjoyed peace after the more than fourteen years of civil war?” The last time I checked, we were celebrating ten years of of peace. Presently, we have enjoyed a little over ten years of peace. This achievement would not have been possible without the needed intervention of the international community beginning with the good people of Nigeria. Nigeria has always aided us whenever we needed help. They have always been the first country of response, sending peacekeepers to Liberia to curb whatever crisis.

This should be underscored ” Ten Years of Peace”. Even though fragile as many experts have asserted due to the shady economy, and other social vices, but the guns have been silent for over ten years. This has triggered the conduct of two successive and peaceful elections. The 2005 presidential election brought to the presidency, the first female President in Africa, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. She has gone further to winning her second term(2011). Additionally, her government enjoys the “sweet” of the international community which has led to the acceptance of Liberia in the comity of nations. Unlike in the dark days, Liberians have some level of acceptance from other countries. With the international acceptance and investment from some of the world’s top companies, some pundits have revealed that the “sweet” has not triggered down to the common citizens. They averred that the high rate of weakness of the economy, corruption and other vices proved that the international acceptance and investment do not impart the lives of Liberians. With the existence of the Ebola epidemic in Liberia, experts are analyzing the effects of the disease on the already weak economy with unemployment rate very high, the weak health system and holistically, the lives of Liberians.

With all of these problems, my attention is focused on the health sector. The sector has been negatively overwhelmed with the Ebola epidemic. Health workers are at the full front in combating this illness. In the midst of limited numbers of health workers especially doctors, they are falling prey to the disease. The deaths of these health workers have been highly attributed to the lack of equipment especially protective gears. I watched a report from Dr. Richard Blesser of abc News through which I saw health workers at one of the Ebola treatment centers in Liberia used makeshift contamination suit to protect themselves in order to treat patients. They improvised to make some pieces of the protective gear out of contamination suit due to the insufficient protective clothing. Liberia Health Minister, Dr. Walter Gwenigale in an interview with Jonathan Paye-Layleh of BBC News in 2007, informed that Liberia had 120 trained doctors and 70 of those doctors was foreign doctors. He further averred that Liberia needed at least 1200 doctors to grapple with the huge demand in the health sector. In a recent statement which was published by the International Business Times, Dr. Frank Glover, who worked with the Christian charity, SIM in Liberia for more than three years, testified before a subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee of the US. He said “This Ebola outbreak in Liberia has exposed the country’s inherently weak health system,”. He informed further “Less than 200 doctors existed in this country of 4 million people prior to this epidemic. After the outbreak in March of this year, that number plummeted to only 50 doctors.” Unfortunately, there is no straight data on the number of doctors in Liberia. But if Dr. Glover and Health Minister’s statements are anything to go by, it indicates that Liberia still has a lot to do in training doctors to cope with the enormous problems that exist in the health sector. Liberia has two medical institutions that train Medical Doctors ( A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine and Liberia College of Physicians and Surgeons, a post graduate program established to train medical specialists in surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology to independently manage surgical and medical problems ( allAfrica.com)). The latter is not even in full swing. Health authorities have revealed the A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine produces between 6 to 12 graduates each year which is insufficient for the population. I am being informed by some students of A.M. Dogliotti College of Medicine that they have not been paid their stipends for some months now. Now, the questions being asked are ” Are there not many students interested in becoming doctors? Is the government not paying enough attention to the health sector(improving schools, provision or medical equipment, increasing incentives for health workers and others)? Are other institutions not investing into the health sector? Does the Ministry of Health have control on health issues in the country?”

In my previous posts, I emphasized that the Ebola Epidemic has hugely and glaringly uncovered the weakness of the health system. It has further scattered apart the sector. We are now enjoying over 10 years of peace with enormous international support. One would had thought that the extreme deficiency in the health sector could have been improved to an appreciable level to cater to the needs of the growing population. Education, employment, politics and every other thing cannot be possible when people are ill. After all of this, the government, international community, other institutions, Liberians will all need to help in improving the health system.

RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN VOLUNTEERISM AND EMPLOYMENT


People all around the world have challenges with unemployment. Situations in developing or undeveloped countries as regards unemployment are in some ways different from those in developed countries. In underdeveloped or developing countries, the issue of high illiteracy, weak economy, bad governance and other vices extremely hinder the employment of people especially the youth. The bottom line is that unemployment exists in every society. Individuals search for means to secure employment and governments holistically search for other means to reduce their countries unemployment rate. Some of the efforts to reduce unemployment is manifested in the promotion of volunteerism.For this paper, I like to look at the relationship between volunteering and employment. Does volunteering automatically secure employment for volunteers? Are there benefits in volunteering? It will also give tips on volunteerism.

There are various definitions for volunteering and employment. Volunteering is defined in the UK as ‘… an activity that involves spending unpaid time doing something that aims to benefit the environment or individuals or groups other than (or in addition to) close relatives’ (Ellis Paine, A., McKay S. and Moroet D. 2013). Wikipedia defines volunteering as an altruistic activity and is intended to promote goodness or improve human quality of life. In return this Activity can produce a feeling of self-worth and respect. There is no financial gain involved for the individual.With these definitions, the grasp of key words or phrases like “unpaid time”, “benefits to environment or individuals or groups” , “altruistic activity” and “no financial gain” are all important in knowing the detail meaning of volunteering. I like to view volunteering as positively contributing to society through the use of one’s knowledge without the intent of receiving pay. This involves working at institutions or other places where society or environment benefits from the work of the volunteer. In a simpler way, I look at employment as acquiring pay for work done but not necessarily contributing to the society or environment.

There are some thoughts as to the relationship between volunteerism and employment. Some media have supported the notion that volunteering increases the prospects of securing job (ABC video, 2009; CBS News, 2011; US News, 2012; or Smart Money, 2011). Governments including the United States Federal Government via its Department of Labor also furthers similar idea. The Corporation for National and Community Service in its publication (Spera, C.; Ghertner, R., Nerino, A., DiTommaso, A. 2013), mentioned this statement from the former Secretary of Labor of the United States Government (“volunteerism can be a way to help unemployed workers expand their network of contacts, improve their résumés, and make a positive impression in a competitive job market.” Hilda S. Solis). The Nigerian and Liberian Governments through their National Youth Service and President Young Professional Programs respectively, are volunteer programs that back such idea. Additionally, the UK government through the Work Together, which is a pilot voluntary work scheme for unemployed youth in London and the Olympics Employment and Skill Strategy encourage or require the unemployed to do voluntary job. I also nurtured the same idea. Many young people, labor and human resource professionals have also pushed the idea that volunteering guarantees a job. I was shocked with the result I found after a research was done on the “relationship between the volunteerism and Employment.

The research found that there is no empirical or statistical data or research that has proven that volunteerism increases the prospects of securing job contrary to the thoughts of many.The relationship between employment and volunteering cannot be determined (Jorgensen H., 2013) . In her research paper ( Kamerāde D. 2013), she apprised that the majority of the unemployed voluntary volunteering does not significantly raise the chances of getting a job. Her research also stressed that volunteering has a weak or negative effect on the prospects of the majority of unemployed people in finding a new job. This research was prepared to question the extent to which empirical evidence supports this assumption that volunteering during unemployment is a stepping stone to paid work. There are many other researches that have proven against the global assumptions that volunteering is a conduit or stepping stone to getting job.

This article is not meant to discourage you from volunteering. In as much that there is no statistical finding that points to the high chances of securing paid job through volunteering, there are some isolated situations where volunteering at institutions brought about some entry jobs for the unemployed. More besides, there are other benefits volunteering accrues for volunteers.

Benefits for the Volunteer

Volunteering benefits the volunteer. The volunteer acquires new employability skills , build networks and CVs, and try new vocations ( Ellis Paine, A., et al. 2013; Kamerāde D. 2013; and Jorgensen H., 2013).

Employability Skills

Work environment varies from institution to institution. Volunteering usually gives the volunteer diverse ideas in getting work done. When this is done continuously, the volunteer becomes adapted to the modus operandi of that task and work environment thus learning new skills. These new skills prepare the volunteer for the world of employment. If given a paid job, the acquired skills from volunteering can be used to get the paid job done.

Build Network

Obviously, when you enter a new place, you get to meet other people you have not met before. This is the same with volunteering. When you volunteer at a new place, you get to meet people for the first time. Your new acquaintances can range from professionals within your career circle or other careers, new career chasers and those that have not yet began their career.Usually, these are people that supervise you, you supervise, you volunteer with, or volunteer for ( bosses) . They become your workmates. Your interactions via work or other professional means allows you to get to know them better and they also get to know you more. This builds your contacts not only with professionals but other individuals in the middle or down the career ladder. You never know. These are contacts that become important in securing a pay job or recommending you for a job. There are several instances of people using contacts from their volunteering job to secure employment not only at their volunteering institution but also at other institutions. It is always positive to keep good relationship with all contacts where you volunteer. It often pays off.

Building of CVs or Resumes

In recruitment, many employers will prefer an employee that has had prior experience in the field or area for which that employee is to be employed. The employer might not necessary require experience from a previous paid job. Volunteering helps to achieve this. This is important for people that have no prior job experience. Most inexperience people indicate volunteer jobs on their CVs or resumes. This indicates to would-be employers that you have had prior job experience. If the job requires prior experience, the experience from the volunteered job could aid in securing the paid job. I usually recommend that whether experienced or inexperienced, it is important to mentioned on your CV or resume, those important volunteer jobs you have done. It does not only show that you have some experience but indicates that you care for society and acquiring compensation from job is not a very high priority. The volunteer might have other internal reasons but many employers reason from that perspective. Caring about the society will depend on the institution you volunteer for. Usually, volunteering for charitable institutions shows that you care about society or environment. Many institutions or governments relate volunteerism to charitable or not- for- profit institutions. Most sponsored training applications and scholarships highly welcome applicants that volunteers for the society or environment. So, sharing with people and institutions verbally and via your CV or profile about your volunteer jobs and experiences, are very paramount in climbing the career ladder.

New Vocation or Occupation

Volunteering helps volunteers to choose their career pathway. When you volunteer, you try different types of task, meet with people and also grow work confidence. These compounded experiences help you to sometimes discover your inner passion from the various task performed, and also talking to peers and professionals in the same field. A youth camp volunteer wrote “I did not know I could speak in public and lead people until now. Thank you for allowing me to volunteer”. This volunteer was unaware that he was good at leading people until he volunteered as a camp worker. He has since gone to pursue a career in Human Resource Management to strengthen his abilities in motivating and leading people.

From a research standpoint, there is no statistical finding that points to the increase chances of acquiring employment through volunteering. Government, media, individuals that sponsor such idea that volunteering secures the volunteer a paid job are actually based on assumptions and are meant to encourage people to volunteer. Volunteering is a great tool to contributing to society. From the above reading, you have understood that there are benefits that volunteers accrued from volunteering. The building of networks, resumes and finding new occupations are some benefits volunteers acquire from volunteering. These benefits competitively prepare volunteers for employment. I do support the act of volunteering. People that are beginning to build their career and are unemployed should consider volunteering. Volunteer is an easy means of building your career until employment comes.

WANEP WOMEN


My youngest brother and I were in a taxi returning home from our grandmother’s residence. When we reached the back of the James Springgs Payne Airport which is opposite the resident of the President (Fish Market Community), something caught his attention. I questioned him, ” why are you stretching yourself?”. He replied asking me and trying to peep through the windshield of the taxi “why are the women lying on the ground and in the rain?”. I smiled knowing that he is very young to understand the positive contributions of those women towards Liberia.

He is a curious little kid and he pushed me to give him some information as to why the women were lying on the ground, and in the rain praying. It was strange to him. I informed him that the women ,that I consider our mothers, are part of an organization named the West Africa Network for Peace-building (WANEP). The organization introduced the program in 2002. In addition to mobilizing women for the promotion of peace, the program builds the capacity of women in peace-building and to become self sufficient. In 2003, the women mobilized a mass and non-violent demonstration in order to ensure a peaceful negotiation between the then Charles Taylor led government, and the rebel groups (the Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) and the Movement for Democracy in Liberia (MODEL))and others political parties to cease fire, begin negotiation and restore peace in Liberia. The efforts of their positive work were inherent in the signing of the Accra Ceasefire Agreement and subsequently, the Accra Comprehensive Peace Agreement. The work of these women were backed by prayers. They spent many days and nights in the open field lying in the sand and praying to God for Peace in Liberia.

My brother’s continuous questions had a flashback effect on me. As young as I was during the crisis, I remembered seeing the women in their white t-shirts fasting and praying for Liberia. Those were the days that no peaceful Liberian will wish to see. I am being informed that they have begun fourteen days of fast and prayer to save Liberia from the Lethal Ebola disease. With the Ebola virus raging, I knew the women would resume their prayers. So, it was no surprise that I saw our mothers praying to God again for Liberia.

These women are one of the foundations for the restoration of peace in Liberia. Their cries, prayers are always heard by God. What amazes me is the mode of their prayer. They lie flat in the sand in the open, and fast and pray to God. They do this whether it is rainy or sunny. Anyone that does not know the intent of these women will think somehow. But these are market women, housewives, and professionals who put aside their important activities to gather and pray for the country. Liberia is under attack. In this case, the Ebola disease is our enemy. In addition to other efforts, we need the intervention of the Women of WANEP. Their fourteen days fast and prayers (in the rain) calling for God’s intervention to eradicate this disease is welcomed and commendable. I know that God will answer their prayers and heal our land.

I am of the opinion that these are the heroines of Liberia. They should be shown all manner of respect. We should hail them not only in the times of crisis, but also in good times. Women of WAPNET, thank you. My brother got to understand the reason why you are in the sand and praying.