Helping youths appreciate their place in a rapidly changing world

Guyana Chronicle
July 1 , 1999

WE live in a rapidly changing environment. We hear this all the time. A major challenge therefore is how best we can prepare our children and youth for this age of transition, so that they met those challenges with energy and enthusiasm and examine ways in which they can influence the society in which they live.

How can we help prepare youths for the demands of this age? Much of our focus at present is on information and technical skills. We live in an age almost dominated by computers and information technology. We need, of course, to acquire a basic set of skills and a foundation for the further acquisition of knowledge. But there are other fundamental questions to ask.

What are the capabilities that our youth need to develop that can readily be applied so that they can adapt to and influence change in a way that benefits both them and the larger society of which they are such a vital part?

We perhaps need to examine three basic concepts before we proceed further.

Firstly, that our children and youth are inherently noble and that they have the right and obligation to be treated and (to) act in a manner that proclaims that nobility.

Secondly, that their actions are based on choices which they must make.

And thirdly, that their actions have influence.

If these three themes are kept as underlying principles or values - then what capacities must our education system develop in our youth? We need to consider this especially in light of the prevailing conditions characterised by a rapidly changing natural world, an explosive expanse in knowledge, and a rapid decline in moral integrity and personal security.

"We are all in this together."

Some key capabilities that our youth need to acquire include the following:

1. Understanding of the natural world.

The global ecosystem that we have inhabited for thousands of years is in process of fundamental change - much of it tragic in its consequences. In some areas we are on the brink of almost total collapse - in some major cities in the world the air can hardly be breathed and to drink the water courts diseases.

2. Awaken the capacity of intellectual investigation.

We need to promote observation, questioning, study, comprehension, reflection and analysis of natural phenomena and world events.

3. Training in/exercise and application of will.

Along with the other two capabilities just mentioned this provides part of the basis for decision making. Having made the investigation what choices do we have and what effect will these choices exert on our world?

4. Appreciation of our place and contribution within a global society/family.

We need to understand and champion the fact that, "The earth is one country and mankind its citizens."

5. From this appreciation youth can choose a skill or set of skills to become proficient in, which will allow them to be productive members of the human family.

6. Understanding the needs for proper social betterment in health, sanitation, agriculture and crafts.

These are all themes subscribed to in the UN charters of which Guyana is a signatory.

"We are all in this together" - We live in inter-dependent communities and countries. When one element of our society stops functioning, we all suffer - be that garbage collection or teaching.

We need to fully understand that, "Our actions have influence on others."

But the intellect must be guided by spiritual values. Herein lies the final basis for decision making and the key to human happiness, which leads to the seventh capability.

This is the capacity to contribute to community consultation and planning through the expression of ideas in a spirit of unity and collaboration.

If youth develop these capabilities, their future and ours will be secure. If they do not the future looks dismal at best.

Are we presently preparing our youth along these lines? Who are the educators? Parents - schools - religious and other social organisations, all have a role. Each of these bodies meets these needs to a greater or lesser extent. We need to work together more and collaborate in our efforts.

As one contribution to this tremendous challenge, Varqa Foundation, in collaboration with IDCE, University of Guyana, is organising a ten-day training course this summer from July 28 - August 6 to explore ways in which youth can make a difference. The course will be at School of the Nations. You can find out more about the course by calling the school at 65781 or 74623. This is a chance for us all to work together on this challenge.

A page from:
Guyana: Land of Six Peoples