Random Thoughts: What kind of a future does our youth envision?
By Shukrullah Ahmadi
Afghanistan, plagued by war, corruption and underdevelopment, has less than 30 % adult literacy rate – the lowest in the region. It has also one of the world’s lowest life expectancy – 48 years. Afghanistan is considered as one of the world’s worst places for a child to be born, with one of the highest child mortality rates (130 per 1000). More than 50 % of its population survives below the poverty line. These are the few challenges to name that Afghanistan is facing right now. How can we create or envisage a prosperous future with such miserable ground realities?
Future begins with the vision we hold now. Our youth which comprises 68% of our population is crucial for shaping our future. They need to ask themselves these big questions: what kind of future do we envision? How can each one of us make a difference and look forward to a prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan? Answering these questions may not be easy for every youngster for different reasons such as apathy or lack of education, etc. Moreover, decades of war and its consequences have destabilized our youth. They are tired of war, violence, oppression and displacements. But now, what is left? Does a ray of hope even exist for a better future?
The answer is yes! As long as our youth realizes its capabilities, undertake and accomplish its responsibilities; I am sure that we would stay resilient and we would not ever lose hope.
First of all we need to realize the power of education. An individual’s foremost priority should be to strive every possible way to get quality education, excel in it, and struggle for higher education because education is the key to youth development and eventually to prosperous future. Given the situation of our country, this is apparently not possible for everyone. Here comes the role of civil society. We need to think of long-term, comprehensive and sustainable youth development. What is the role of youth here? It’s simple: If a person is well educated and well off, I think, that’s not a big deal. But if your education is useful for someone else such as educating those who is in need of it, then one can call him well educated and responsible.
At the same time this is true that many of privileged youth are well educated and those who received their education abroad can realize their responsibility for their homeland. We all can ponder on what each of us can do for a prosperous future of our country rather than being too critical of it all times. No matter what and how much each of us can do but even if we attempt doing something good that’s really important because great things start with small beginnings.
A sleepless night, with sounds of bombs near one’s house is not pretty and it is bound to leave a big impact on one’s psychology if it’s regular. More than two decades of war have left terror in the minds of people living here. I hope we can contribute in helping the people cope with deep psychological scars, which are visible in just about everyone, by inspiring them that there is more in this world than just evil, hatred and war; there is hope – a hope for a better and peaceful tomorrow.
Our communities where less than half of the population knows how to read and write; where domestic violence against women is not considered a crime but a personal matter, and for whom education is deemed a privilege or a curse depending on where you are, should cover another part of our new generations’ vision. I hope our youth can contribute in the improvement of these issues by at least raising their voice, having their say and educating people regarding these issues.
Moreover, what pained my heart is when I heard that Afghanistan is one of the worst countries in the world for a child to be born. Besides, peace and harmony is still a longing of common people despite a decade long war. This should compel one to ponder, will he or she can be the agent of change? (Let me tell you that no supernatural force will bring this change. Change begins from within). But personally I sometimes seem to run away from my conscience by saying that media shows a negative picture of life. Sadly this isn’t the case.
It’s very easy to sit back at home and watch the news, and pass our comments on people and situations and I have been guilty of the above till 2011, when I visited Afghanistan, and saw some sad realities of life (the good realities also do exist!), it saddened me for a moment. On my arrival back to Pakistan, I was privileged to meet her Excellency Dr. Suraya Dalil, acting Minister of Public Health Afghanistan in November 2011. She added to my aspiration to help our needy country men. Then once again I realized my responsibility and purpose for my country and simultaneously it motivated me to dream higher and remain consistent with it amidst life’s miseries and obstacles.
Today, the pace of globalization is at its peak. Cultures, races, ethnicities and ideologies-political and religious are interacting rapidly like never before. In order to make this process healthy and not destructive, it demands from us to imagine a world of peace and harmony; where people live with freedom without any fear of oppression, invasion, war or terrorism; where diversity and pluralism co-exists i.e. cultures and different ideologies listen to each other with respect rather than shouting on each other; people coming together on common grounds which unite them; where diversity and individual differences are considered as a blessing rather than a curse; and whose people are altruistic and kind for the disadvantaged.
Whatever has been discussed above is something that makes sense mostly to privileged Afghans; but what about those with empty stomachs? What about those who don’t have any shelter, and work on the streets of Kabul or anywhere across the country? Unfortunately the situation is grave. It is high time for the government and civil societies to wake up and intervene more in this sector.
Many achievements have been done since 2001 for the young generation such as, schooling for girls, and other opportunities. However, other benchmarks of youth development are questionable and much remains to be done. The concerned authorities have to do more for the development of youth. Because, if the plight of underprivileged youth who suffers from issues such as suppression, poverty and unemployment, is ignored, then we have to pay the price for it. They can be induced in to narcotic industry, illegal armed groups and terrorists to earn bread. This means if the nation does not empower and use them effectively then illegal groups such as insurgents know very well how to exploit them smartly.
Afghanistan National Institute of Music- who teaches music to young generation especially the disadvantaged in order to empower them, Afghan Mobile Mini-Circus for Children- whose goal is to bring empowerment and laughter back to the children, Skateistan-who uses skating to empower youth, are doing a wonderful job in teaching the young generation of Afghans to paint and lead a brighter future. However, more milestones are left to be achieved. This can be possible by more support and intervention from the international community. Provision of quality education, life skills, and workforce readiness are few basic but pragmatic, sustainable and important areas of youth development.
The writer is an undergraduate at the Aga Khan University. He has also worked with the Aga Khan University Programs in Afghanistan.