Why The Middle East Needs a Youth Policy Immediately
With many countries in the middle east finding their freedom through the Arab Spring, the attention now turns to the youth who got them the freedom.
The very story regarding how the Arab Spring or the Arab awakening started itself is a tribute to the youth of the middle east. It started off with a Tunisian street vendor in his 20’s in a town called Sidi Bouzid setting himself on fire because of the injustices he suffered under the local administration. His name was Mohammed Bouazizi and he was a graduate. Due to the lack of employment opportunities, he was forced to sell vegetables from a cart. His self-immolation was the spark in the powder keg of the middle east.
The protests surrounding his death were the ones that brought Tunisia’s 23 year old dictator, Zine El Abidine Ben Ali down from his dictatorship. Mohammed Bouazizi became the face of the revolution.
When the Tunisian protests spread all over the Arab world, inspiring millions, mostly youth, they all had become one. It was the youth in all these countries that toppled the regimes. In all countries, they had to struggle. In some countries, they didn’t have to struggle too much like in Morocco where the king allowed some reforms and economic benefits which made the Moroccan youth happy. In some countries, they had to struggle a bit, like in Egypt and Tunisia where they did bleed and suffer pain. And in some countries, the people suffered tremendously like in Libya and Syria where they took many casualties and bled a lot. In all these places, it was the youth that stirred up the protests, it was the youth with their access to the internet and social networking that brought up the numbers and spread the word. And most importantly, it was their anger, their frustrations and their needs that brought them to protest against the misrule that was causing them pain.
Now this is very important because some countries have found their new freedom and it cannot be misused. For example, in Egypt, there are protests and strikes calling for the raise in salaries for those who work in the government. This stalls all work and puts the country in a vulnerable position and won’t allow it to resume activities to rebuild the damaged economy. The youth is what will drive nations to come in their futures and it has to be calculated and directed to good use. For this a youth policy which is comprehensive, planned and far-sighted needs to be formulated and implemented.
First of all, the policy needs to have both long term and short term goals and both should be mutually accommodating. Neither should stand in each other’s way. In fact, the long term goals should be given more importance and short term goals could conflict with them and could prove harmful in the future. For example, aiming programs just for the immediate employment of graduates and not devoting any resources into skill-building and institution building for the future may prove real harmful later.
The policy needs to aim at not just giving education to the youth, but also empowering them with life skills like teamwork, cooperation and communication skills and help them lead a more independent and secure life.
The policy needs to work with the educational policy in providing real education where the candidate is proficient in his subject and can contribute to it further and enhance it. Vocational training is one way to enhance proficiency. Research in educational institutions must be encouraged. The standards of examination must be raised as well.
When it comes to life skills, the policy must have a very holistic approach with innovative techniques. Sport is a very good way to bring about life skills. Sports and games as well as other exercises must be encouraged. Psychological exercises and techniques must be used as well.
The policy must allow the youth to mingle with youth in other countries and create a platform where they will be an exchange of ideas, relationships and experiences. This creates exposure and it will definitely prove beneficial to the youth. More student exchange programs, scholarships need to be introduced.
Entrepreneurship needs to be given due importance in the youth policy. The potential of the youth needs to be tapped to create new enterprises and new products by which they can employ more people and reduce the burden on the government to provide them with jobs. There are many innovative youth in these countries and with a little bit of support, they could go a long way. To begin with, there needs to be trust fund which can be used to create capital for new enterprises.
And perhaps most importantly, women must also be given their due place in society. The youth policy must encourage more education and jobs for women and give them due respect and reduce any inequality between men and women. In any society where the women work and earn, the society is strengthened. We can see that from the case of China and western countries where their lives are much more dignified because they also work, study and earn just like men do.
Only if the problems of the youth are solved in the middle east will there be peace and stability there and a good way to start is by introducing a policy.
Copyright © 2011 Ashwath Komath