Along with instilling this sense of responsibility, our youth needs to be educated on citizenship (which is not part of our regular curriculum), so they can develop within them a sense of following laws, doing good and having good intentions.
I asked young people on Facebook, twitter and SMS what do they do when they are not in school. Most replied nothing ‘sleeping, watching movies or hanging out with friends. Some said that they run chores in the house or do a job to support their families.
A small number said that they play sports, which is a healthy and leadership -building activity. A surprisingly large number also mentioned texting and talking to friends, which is of course inevitable given the multitude of SMS and voice bundles that are available.
So how can we encourage the same in Pakistan? What steps do we need to take to make sure our kids and our youth develop the capabilities of initiative and leadership? First and foremost, a change in attitudes of our parents and educators is needed. Studying is important for our youth, certainly, it should always be the priority but it should never be the only thing that the youth should do. Social and paternal attitudes lead our youth to be only confined to the classroom. If a teenager proposes that he wants to run a clean-up drive in his street he should be encouraged and helped by his parents and school not shot down. Aymen Saleem and her classfellows set a world record for most people getting into a smart car because of their parent’s and school’s immense support; they also worked for the Make a Wish Foundation spreading joy to kids with cancer also because of the immense paternal support they had. This attitude needs to be the norm not the exception. The media of course has the biggest role to play when it comes to changing attitudes and here at Geo and Jang we, of course, will endeavour to do that. I also hope that parents and educators who are reading this will encourage their children to take on such initiatives.
The second step is the development of youth leadership programmes. The annual young leaders conference is a great step towards this. However, the federal and provincial governments need to get involved to create a programme which will reach beyond the elite education echelons and develop competence and leadership amongst the majority of our students in the country – which of course includes students in government schools. Small things like making improvements to the school infrastructure, fund-raising for the school from the community or cleaning up the school building are all doable initiatives. People to People holds many leadership conferences in the US where all students create a community action plan during the conference and implement it when they go back home. Conferences leading to productive action can go a long way in developing competence and leadership abilities in our students.
The third step, and perhaps the most important, is to give the youth the awareness and sense of responsibility that they need to take such initiatives. How many young people will go past a heap of trash on the road and blame the government for this condition? Many. How many would say, let’s clean this up? Very few. This is symptomatic of a bigger problem which I will write on in the coming days. But in short, the youth doesn’t seem to own the places they live and study in. They believe things are alien and they have no role or stake in improving or working for it. Corporate brands have done a lot to change this through the introduction of patriotic adverts and activities. The media has also followed this trend and supported it. Being patriotic and a Pakistani have become more relevant and important concepts in society. In the same spirit, this awareness campaign and identity building needs to continue which will result in the building of this sense of responsibility.
Along with instilling this sense of responsibility, our youth needs to be educated on citizenship (which is not part of our regular curriculum), so they can develop within them a sense of following laws, doing good and having good intentions. Very few parents and teachers tell students to obey traffic laws, which are there for their safety. How many parents or teachers actually pay a fair amount of tax, and what kind of example does this set for the youth? This will enable the upcoming leaders to have respect for the laws of the country and not make a mockery of them as we see so often now.
It is important to remember, leaders don’t only exist at the top levels, but it is the mid-level leadership which essentially runs the country and organisations. A school teacher leads a classroom, a principal leads a school, a manager leads a team and so on. We need good leaders! It is high time we realise that leadership is not a mythical quality which only ‘some’ are born with. Becoming a leader doesn’t mean being vocal and protesting. We have too many of those already. A leader is someone with good intentions, ability, capacity and competence. We must develop these qualities in our future leaders today, so they can make a better tomorrow for themselves.