Thursday, November 29, 2012

Towards a new National Policy for Youth – They don’t even know where to start

The Minister of Youth Affairs has just announced the development of a National Youth Policy and disclosed that the Govt will publish one by March of 2013. There was a full page ad asking for people to provide information at various centers around the country, but with scant details of those places. They only gave till the end of November, less than a week to respond. This is totally inadequate.

It is important that ideas from young people are put forward. For that an email address, and phone numbers of locations MUST be given. Youth do not loiter around to provide information to the Govt. or for anyone else, for that matter, so youth friendly locations must be sought to get as representative a sample of opinions.

The Govt. defines youth in Sri Lanka as between 15-29. They maintain that group amounts to 26% of the population or 5.3M people. Into this category fall those who are about to leave school just after sitting for their O levels and some in fact leave during their O level year without sitting the exams as they are frightened they will fail and therefore do not even wish to try. They go up to others who have completed post graduate degrees or other diplomas.

There are over 350 Youth Organizations in Sri Lanka. It is time they compile a data base, and inform them of it, call them into seminars to discuss matters to be included in a youth policy. No matter who is in power, there will be guidelines created following this Policy, which will be long term and decisions have to be taken to provide for the future aspirations of youth and many decisions have a 5 to 10 year gestation period before it comes into effect, if it requires resources to be built for infrastructure and programs that address the needs of young people.

Per the Daily Mirror article of Nov 29th 2012 I quote

The ‘Youth Policy of Sri Lanka’(YPSL) will be completed by March 2013 for Parliamentary approval heralding a new era for Sri Lankan youth, Youth Affairs and Skills Development Minister Dulles Alahapperuma said.
At a news briefing on Tuesday Minister Alahapperuma said, Sri Lanka was the only country in Asia without a youth policy.
“Sri Lanka was devastated by three youth uprisings in the north and south during the last four decades which stunted the national economy, damaged our social fabric, widened the gap between the three ethnic groups in Sri Lanka and delayed the youth welfare. The respective governments appointed committees to look into these youth unrests, but all of them failed to bring tangible solutions to youth problems,” Minister Alhapperuma said.

He said the only outcome of these committees was the inclusion of a new word, ‘Tharuna Asahanaya’ (youth intolerance) to the Sinhala vocabulary.

Different countries identify the age limit of youth differently and in Sri Lanka a youth is defined as within the age group of 15 to 29 years. Many Western countries classify youth to be between 13 – 20 years. The youth population in Sri Lanka is 26% and the most valuable asset of the nation. Therefore it is the duty of the government to ensure a bright and trouble free future to the youth of the country, he said. Minister Alahapperuma refused to accept that youth in Sri Lanka are a dissatisfied lot and said the Sri Lankan youth, with proper guidance, could be a role model to others. All governments since independence, educationalists and policy makers should accept responsibility for youth intolerance in Sri Lanka.

The discussions will be held till December with relevant bodies! And a policy will be announced in March of 2013.

More time is needed for discussion and debate, and lot more funds allocated to get the opinion of youth especially in rural areas, who face a classic dilemma of having to leave their place of upbringing for education and employment, perhaps permanently.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

a policy is a good start, but turning policy into practice is where the rubber meets the road.

the youth are the future, and their interests represented in the government will lead to more investments in long-term projects that will benefit citizens over a longer time horizon than the next election, although that is what the politicians are targeting.

i do give the current government credit for investing in long-term projects such as highways, roads, bridges, ports, energy infrastructure, etc.

what needs urgent attention now is the education SYSTEM, not just throwing more of the GDP towards education but assessing the quality of the system in producing informed citizens that can actively embrace opportunities that SRI LANKA will present in the future -- not just producing accountants, doctors, nurses, etc. that will migrate to the white man's province