Youths who are mired in dilemma are in dire need of personal development programs to help them realize their potentials
Youths from Nepal, South and Central Asia recently gathered in Kathmandu to participate in the Everest International Model United Nations, a learning platform for students who aspire to become next diplomats. The Model United Nations is a simulation exercise where each participating youth assumes the role of a member of a foreign diplomatic delegation dealing in negotiations with peers on contemporary issues.
It was a great opportunity for them to learn politics and cultural differences. The event provided a platform to understand new sensitivity by acting as if you are a big person in the diplomatic world who defends the interest of a country you might have never heard before. The fact is that American Embassy in Kathmandu hosted the program is a positive example of soft diplomacy that helps promoting and encouraging local talents. Such soft skills enhancement initiatives were not taken positively by the new government as it expects development partners to be more focused on physical infrastructure. The government’s position should be understood in the perspective of ensuring the foundations that would allow Nepal to leap forward in terms of development that must have strong hardware dimensions.
Certainly the government might think of state-led examples of development that have been pursued in many emerging nations. Yet it would be a mistake to entirely drop “soft” development initiatives especially if these are focused on developing the skills of the local youths who lack opportunities of self-development.
What American Embassy has been doing with Model United Nations or other initiatives like the Embassy Youth Council help creating pathways for personal development of local youths. Those youths attending the Model United Nations are inquisitive to learn new things and gain insights about other cultures and meet peers from countries that have basically no substantial relationships with Nepal. They are curious and bold enough to explore new worlds.
Not many youths may be aware about Model United Nations exercises. But prospects are bright for Nepali youths, despite the challenges ahead. If you think about the youths who have the chance to attend quality universities abroad, you will think of them as great catalysts to expedite local development. Think of organizations like Teach for Nepal or ongoing conservation efforts to rebuild the core parts of Kathmandu or some outstanding work in the disability sector. You will find young citizens who have attended prestigious American universities or Erasmus Mundi Program or Australian Awards Leadership Program working for the cause.
But there also are local youths from marginalized communities who at the most can dream of a job as laborer in Qatar or Malaysia. They have small dreams not because they are less smart, but because for them “thriving” means earning some decent money and helping the family back home. You can imagine other vulnerable youths, for example youths with disabilities, who live in frustration because they can’t find a job. They stop dreaming about better life long before.
You might have seen a good number of youths who come from mediocre schools and want to study abroad with the view of getting PR status in Australia or the US. They do not even know about Ivy League schools or they do not even bother about looking at the QS World University Rankings because simply they are interested to get out of the country as soon as possible.
Often under family pressure, they do not mind taking short-cut ways in terms of arranging faked documentations or paying educational consultancies to help them get visa. They are ignorant about their lives abroad and many of them do not know how hard the life is. They are in the need of personal development programs. Thus we should encourage development partners to continue to offer incredible learning experiences for those who really deserve it. Let’s realize this: youths who are mired in dilemma are in dire need of personal development programs to help them realize their potentials.
Recently I was involved in leadership training programs. A good number of students were not interested in participating or getting anything out of it. They were there for formality sake perhaps because their college wanted them to be there. Only a few were truly interested to learn and enhance their skills.
In our office, we keep all major English newspapers, including the national and international ones. We do that because we believe reading and remaining updated with the news help youths develop their skills. Sadly, almost no volunteers or interns are found reading them. This requires a habit and an effort and this can happen only with practice and insights that can be developed over time. But they do not see an opportunity in reading. We need to reverse that. We need a better education system that instills curiosity among students. We need motivated and skilled teachers for this.
The National Youth Engagement Network is an example of smart youth engagement and it should continue to receive support even when the program expires. UNDP is doing a great job partnering with local youths organizations to advance the cause of Sustainable Development Goals. Local champions like National Youth Council and National Development Volunteering Service, both affiliated with the Government, might show the government the way youths can change the society and the country.
The author is Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities