If the survey I referred to in my last blog entry is anything to go by, the youth of Sri Lanka do not see a future for them in the island. Offered a chance they will leave at the first instance, and therefore have voted with their feet, and they are also disgruntled with the political process having lost faith.
Young people are idealistic and that is a defining quality of Youth. Therefore it is important that this enthusiasm is not stifled, and turned into despair instead. A responsible opposition should seize this opportunity and prepare Youth for a better future with a believable set of policies that the opposition agrees to put forward to actually attract the youth vote.
The main issues that concern youth are improving their employment prospects, improving the quality of education, and matching the skills to the vacancies and carry out programs to reduce this void between, jobs available and skills to fill them. As a matter of policy, the opposition has undertaken to double education spending at National Level, and most of that will go to the Free Education sector, from Montessori all the way to Tertiary Level. Instead of building construction, where there is a lot of leakage due to kickbacks, the attention MUST be in retraining teachers to the required levels as 75% of teachers in the state sector WILL NOT pass a competency test today for the subjects they teach. If the quality of the education system improves, then some of the required skills will be available just as result of a better educated and motivated student who is able to think clearly and apply their attention to specific areas of employment.
In my line of work, I interview dozens of youth monthly and none of them without exception are able to clearly define what they want. I guess those who really know what they want, don’t come to me! How can I say politely that those who then come to me are the no hopers! Actually they really need my help in find their focus first. Once they know what it is they want, then that is half the battle, they are almost there in their march for success.
We must have leadership programs to empower youth in finding their jobs for themselves AND NOT be dependent on others! Aspects of this will include how they should go about planning their lives, so that they will obtain a relative level of satisfaction and NOT success and we must encourage them to put satisfaction over income level.
We then map out best as we can what the future would look like and provide appropriate training in the fields where the needs are expected to be the greatest, both locally and overseas, where we permit people the opportunity to explore the world and return with qualifications, and experience in fields of benefit to Sri Lanka.
It must offer every emigrant a desire to return once their short term aspirations are met.
Of course just employment is NOT the answer, but a living wage where basic aspirations can be fulfilled. Most wages today, do not permit the young person to live on their own, outside of their parent's home leading to much disillusionment.
Making promises to fill this is a tall order, and it is most important that they are not mere promises and are followed with deeds. It is this believable platform, that must be introduced, for renewed interest in the political process and for the main opposition as a matter of priority. Giving the message that connects with the target group is the 64,000 dollar question.
The youth vote is a critical element in winning an election, and it is now clear that the Govt. campaign is just smoke and mirrors, which may try and confuse some of its merits, but the vast majority is likely to view it cynically, and choose NOT to exercise their franchise, unless the opposition can justify the reason for voting, in their best interests.