It is essential for the youth to play a key role in major issues such as poverty alleviation through a more equitable distribution of wealth and resources, the battle against global warming or climate change and disarmament especially the dismantling of nuclear weapons. In Some countries the young people including teenagers are indeed playing major roles. For instance the Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg is giving leadership to the world in the battle against climate change and has told world leaders, “I am 16 now and when I am 60 I want a better world for my children and grandchildren. Not just talk or hopes of doing something but urgent and effective action to reduce the disastrous effects of climate change”.
In Sri Lanka the youth are often not given the opportunity or encouragement to play a major role in building or rebuilding a just and fair society. Finance Minister Mangala Samaraweera over the weekend said more than 98,000 people had been given interest free easy payment loans under the Gamperaliya and Enterprise Sri Lanka scheme. But we wonder how many of them are creative and enterprising young people or how many are long standing party supporters. Even in the vital, decision making field of politics, young people are not given the due place and we often see older people playing the major role and on another side family politics.
Yesterday the United Nations marked the International Youth day. In a statement the world body says, currently in the world there are 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24. This is the largest youth population ever. However, more than half of all children and adolescents aged 6-14 lack basic reading and maths skills, though a majority of them are attending school.
According to the UN, this global learning crisis threatens to severely hamper progress towards the sustainable development goals. August 12 was first designated International Youth Day by the UN General Assembly in 1999 and serves as an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change and an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.
This year’s theme is “transforming education”. This highlights efforts to make education more inclusive and accessible for all youth, including efforts by youth themselves. International Youth Day 2019 will examine how Governments, young people and youth-led, youth-focused organizations and other stakeholders, are transforming education so that it becomes a powerful tool to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Inclusive and accessible education is crucial to achieving sustainable development and can play a role in the prevention of conflict. Indeed, education is a ‘development multiplier’ as it plays a pivotal role in accelerating progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, be it poverty eradication, good health, gender equality, decent work and growth, reduced inequalities, action on climate or peaceful societies, the UN says. Education should lead to relevant and effective learning outcomes, with the content of school curricula being fit for purpose, not only for the 4th industrial revolution and the future of work, but also for the opportunities – and challenges – that rapidly changing social contexts bring.
The Sri Lankan government - despite the de-stabilising conflict between President Maithripala Sirisena and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Front (UNF) - has given high priority to education. From this year 13 years of education will be compulsory for all students. Even those who fail the General Certificate of Education (Ordinary Level) examination need not go into the three-wheeler driver trade or similar jobs. Instead they could move to the GCE (Advanced Level) class where more than 20 areas of vocational training including the latest high-technology subjects are made available so that they could proceed to university level or get well-paid jobs in which there creative and entreprenerial skills could be put to work.
Health insurance is being provided free of premium to most of the students with one of the principal aims being to make the nearest school the best school. How far this vision and goals will bring benefits to the students, specially the poorer ones is another question. But the policy itself has positive dimensions and we hope the future governments will pursue it.