We are a country never seems to learn from mistakes of the past. This is especially relevant to youth and their activities. Up to the school age young are doctored to believe that if one studies well and get good grades the life is going to be rosy. They are not allowed to question the wisdom of their fathers or forefathers. Leave alone school eduction even after university education only a few are trained to take risks, become creative, be analytical and be able to solve problems without help. Above all, to be independent and emerge victorious in a society which demands skills that are for beyond their potential needs and character.
We tend to promote what I call the Mega Star Image.
How many of them can dream to become a cricketer and represent the national team?
Is there a development program where once the skills are recognized they are nursed with the correct balance of other educational skills including communication and become successful after the retirement instead of becoming a list MP?
Even in a professional training programs they are highly successful in a theoretical problem solving and paper tests, but given even a simple problem in real life the graduates struggle to find the solution.
This is true in IT industry too which I tend to delve deep over the past two decades or so.
This does not mean we do not have creative youth. On the contrary there is plenty. Most of them are untapped since our rigid, structured educational system in primary, secondary, tertiary level and in the university screen them out of the system and hinder their creativity. If you do a study countrywide sample of youth who do computer hardware and software work, over 90% of them never had any formal training in the field while in school. Their shear creativity has led them to the computer field and excel in their field and not due to the massive government school structure and the mushrooming Tuition System run by half baked trainers.
I will start with a simple example of a talented such person. One of my computers suddenly packed up with me being unable setup the BIOS. After three nights of fiddling round I manged to get a warning signal from Linux Console (fast computer) which said in a fraction of a second that the problem is with the cooling system and the computer switched off itself immediately with BIOS turned off. All along I was worried that it was due to a BIOS virus, since I bought a secondhand SATA hard disk and fixed it up, few weeks ago to upgrade its capacity.. Immediately I went to a young chap (now very mature) whom I new for over a decade (one of the first few computer shops that were started in Kandy in the late nineties) and told him the story behind and his younger brother nail it down to the cooler fan and fixed it with few rubber pads on which the processor and the cooler sit and the job was done. Had I gone to a professional shop not only they would have ruined the motherboard, I would have had to pay the workmanship too.
In retrospect what actually happened was an Electrical Surge that went across the UPS and hit the mother board had burned the rubber pads.
I am not at all saying our youth are not talented, quite the opposite but our education system fails them by inaction and lack of proactivity.
Lot has to be done if we want to keep our bright and young remain in this country or to prevent future repetition of calamities.
The introduction is in defense of the youth and not to do patchwork or ad hoc repairs to the existing system or structure that needs reforms well thought of and designed.
That is the job of the administrators holding big posts but my intention is to highlight where we went wrong not only nationally but internationally. I won’t go into the two unsuccessful youth rebellions both in the North and in the South and I believe volumes have been written but lessons not learnt and leave it for a political round table to dilly dally.
Demographic structure of the youth and their migration
The patten of demographic structure is basically dichotomous. In the developing world it is the Rural Youth and the Urban Youth. In the developed world it is the Digital Divide (the disparity between individuals who have and do not have access to Information Technology (Wilhelm, Carmen, & Reynolds, 2002). Unfortunately there is also gender bias in this context and I prefer using the sophisticated youth and the not yet sophisticated youth instead (add English and Ethnic harmony also into this equation for our youth to complicate the matters even worse for our educationalists pondering over this issue) to make digital divide somewhat invincible. The youth who are migrating for education and job opportunities to the commercially viable parts of the city invariably fall into at least two categories. The unsophisticated ones takes the security jobs and the sophisticated ones get to the service jobs.
To this add the group that had been slowly but surely growing. It used to be only drug representatives and insurance brokers who made the bulk of this category. They neither carry laptops nor ipods ( like in the developing countries-I sometime call them gullible vultures) but they wear ties and have a company vehicles. This category is an aberration in the third world and most of them are from rich families who failed both in IT as well as academic capabilities but have powerful vocal cords beyond the capabilities of some of our younger politicians.
They simply do not contribute to the economy and they do not fall under my radar.
For one reason or the other, I sympathize with the semi-urban (not the urban rich who will fall into some worthwhile category including the salesman category above or family business) youth for no faulty of their own victimized and marginalized by the area base selection to higher education and unable to rub shoulders with the new elite to get into the system without some influence. Some of them sell family silvers and go abroad and struggle in their education both financially and due to lack of proper English (French or German) proficiency and do menial jobs to survive and fail miserably in their educational achievements abroad. This was not true when I was abroad. The second generation children fared extremely well compared to the locals some of whom were neonaziists.
Majority of them remain here and they fall into the disenchanted lot. This category percentage wise and in numbers are large and do not fall into the cheap job seekers category above security personal level but the next level of repetitive jobs (nurses and laboratory assistant, clerical). Their dream of going to higher education is muted by the wrong policy of selection and going abroad is aborted by the economic reasons. This makes the bulk of this uneasy lot. If we do not have a system to look after this, lot of the middle class (it is almost non existent now) or the slowly upwardly mobile stratum of the demography we have a big problem in our hands. Simple rhetoric want help them. Either government (I do not see them doing it) or the business community should engineer this potential work force into the national grid in some tangible way. Of course with some prior training in skills appropriate for employing them or absorb them to new entrepreneurship such as mass (material) transport and / or delivery system in a subsystem of big companies, import and export business (call it outsourcing if you may) or new creative ventures outside the traditional system.
Fattening up the 20 to 30 giant conglomerate companies as we see presently will lead to lack of competition and monopoly. Lot of medium size or even better international level medium size ventures with branches abroad should enter inter the market. Failing which this fraction will swell and the reciprocal events that is happening abroad will catch their spirits and their youth.
This category is the one who did not turn up at the polling stations and would not turn up next time around too.
There is somewhat similar category abroad who put Obama into high office and Obama has not got a recipe for them. I myself believe Obama jumped the gun too early and he should have let Mrs. Clinton come into office and with perhaps Mr Clinton in shadow would have taken the country out of the financial trouble what the Republican (the war chest is huge and we have some similarities here but with some difference) have left them The Republicans took part of the American youth to war and remaining subcategory was left disenchanted.
In here too the war took a section of the youth to war front the other sections were left to their own devises. There is a category of youth in America who do not like the war but would prefer the resources would have been better vested and channeled on youth empowerment at a time of economic crisis (that includes the students that come from abroad).
This is why I feel Obama got stuck with the war machine whether he liked it or not, the inevitability of the trap left behind by the previous administration and he should have let Mrs. Clinton do the job of rehabilitation (what Obama has to do now is to disregard the powerful youth movement who backed him irrespective of colour prejudice).
They did a lot of internet propaganda for him to win.
Had he made his presence in the second time round after Mrs, Clinton with youth reforms which was probably in his mind, he would have left a powerful image in modern history but he was too hasty to come to power and now all Republicans and some grumpy Democrats are undermining his efforts. He was put to economic front instead of the reform front and medical reform is not what the youth are worried in their age.
The demographic structure of the Stubborn Old Age
This is where I want to emphasize how in the old generation in the West are pushing through their agenda disregarding the youth. The survival of the aged (unlike in the East) is increasing in the West. The proportion of the pensioners are increasing and some of them want to continue in employment and business as long as possible depriving the youth an entry point. They are the ones who consume most of the health benefits and with the stock market crisis the governments are unable to fulfill their service commitments and pension funds are frozen due to debt crisis.
Who are the ones who makes the decisions in the legislature?
The old people are in the box seat.
They get their golden hand shakes and youth are left high and dry. This is why in France there were protests. But failed. In UK burden of education is put upon the youth and who wins again, the old gentlemen in the legislative. They know youth protests are transient and sooner or later they pass the age of agitation if the old held the momentum long enough for them to succumb. The belief is that there is no coordination in youth activity but the old in the decision making machinery are not only stubborn but powerful too.
My question is how long the old can deprive the youth?
How long the youth will will stay calm?
My answer is simple. Until the numbers are sufficient to make pressure groups powerful enough and will hold the balance of power in numbers in politics. The numbers are going to swell up over the next 3 to 10 years and that is when the problem will emerge in full force. All the current trends are showing this tendency. Cost of education is going up. The repayment of education loans are getting defaulted. Cost of living is going up. The average take home salary is going down. Job satisfaction is diminishing and moving to alternate rich countries are becoming difficult.
Old are blocking the entry points at all level since they are themselves a struggling lot with loans and health bills. The youth are trapped in a vicious cycle.
A good recipe for an uprising in various forms. Early signs are emerging but politicians are complacent as always they are.
Like the bubble burst in 2008 another bubble is going to burst.
This time it is the Youth Bubble!
I do not believe American Youth will have the same backing come nest time round to Obama. However they are patient that is why the wave that is going in UK and France did not engulf America. Unlike Americans the British youth are the inpatient lot and their demographic structure is not very different from us almost homogeneous. Lot of them supporting WikiLeaks and the band wagon illustrates the problem in UK. The WiKiLeaks may be the catalyst they were waiting for. Nobody likes powerful rich governments dictating terms. This happened in China in Tineman Square but but the Chinese changed outlook significantly from that point. Now it is the time for it to happen in Capitalist World. The older generation did not care for the future of their youth except their own greedy agenda.
Current trends and recent Analysis
I did a web search on youth and their activities and to my amazement I could not find a single article highlighting the current trends or any worthy analysis. That is why I thought of penning down my own analysis having been abroad as a young person when things were quiet and both elderly and youth were happy. I want to drive a point of warning at the youth who are emigrating looking for better pastures, the one who is going out without some basic qualifications to support themselves. They should do some basic serious career ground work (if not a degree) and at least lay some minimum foundation before they leave for abroad. With internet providing lot of services that can be accessed from here it is not that difficult unlike 20 years ago. Once you enter the stream of one’s choice in theoretical aspects and minimal practical competence, that is the time one should look for places abroad.
Do not rush and do not let your enthusiasm ruins your future prospects.
Most of our youth are not ready for the hard times. I have personal communications from whom I have help to go abroad (IT industry) for further education. It is not like 10 to 20 years ago. Things are changing fast and cost of eduction is spiraling .up. It is difficult to stem the tide. Everybody is in the rat rate to beat the other.
Rural youth are in the worst dilemma possible. If they remain in the village their scope is limited. If they move to the city there is no proper accommodation and city life is expensive. They have to either commute to the city daily or to run parallel processes (study while working) to support their ventures which is not easy. Only a few can succeed doing two things at the same time. The lack of English competence and lack of computer competence is to their disadvantage. They just survive the day but progress is slow. Ultimately without any preparation go abroad with a big loan at home. Same disadvantages but at much detrimental level holds him or her to the abject poverty there too. This vicious cycle continues since our education failed to instill the basic survival tricks and needs except passing examinations.
Youth in disarray
I will jot down few of my personal experiences for completeness sake. I should also state that this analysis is not any way comprehensive but a sketch for somebody who wants to delve deep into research of the current trends. It is a waste to go into past and proclaim big and global theories. Youth is a dynamic force. They are able to sustain and overcome any obstacles and mature unlike the adults who are stubborn, inflexible and fails to adjust to global changing needs and challenges. What we have to give them is the correct and unbiased direction..
Not give them same old advice if you get a degree everything is alright.
There are many who do not have degrees from a prestigious college or university but are successful in many excellent ventures.
If you have a dream go for it before you are too old!
Down to Earth Stories
Once I met a cleaning lady (they are called women though-but they do an honourable job) who was sick. She could not stand on he feet. I have already decided to give her two weeks paid leave and went into her story a bit at length. She had a kid under five and she was doing there shifts a day in three different places. She was underpaid and 12 hours over worked. The story is similar with security guys. They also do three shifts and that is why you often find them sleeping in their seats. The story is similar when you talked about the unskilled nurses in the private sector. They are paid even less. No revision of their minimum salary scale for over a decade. This is one reason I left the private sector; the last revision was when I was actively campaigning for them with the little political connection I had.
Other story is a more down to earth. This was a guy who was a drug addict. He came from a village after a some family dispute and was a good worker. Soon the boss who was dealing with both drugs and construction got him hooked to the addiction. All what he earned returned back to the boss. This practice is almost universal now. It is high time sociological students do some qualitative (not quantitative) research hiding their real identity in all the fields I have mentioned under down to earth heading.
I will wind up with some skills that are important for success in any profession.
Skills that Youth should possess
1. Cognitive Skills
2. Technical Skills
3. Analytical Skills
4. Strong Work Ethics
5. Ability work as a Team Member
6. Communication Skills
The cognitive skill is the comprehensive understanding of theory and practice of any skill. The technical skill is the skills each trade or profession excels in practical application of it. Last three are the most important but seriously lacking in both youth and adults. I will illustrate a simple example.
I used to carry in my front pocket a tiny folded schedule card (weekly). In fact this card is like a torn off page of a week in the diary but on a folded stiff paper. It fits in nicely in the my front pocket. Once it is over like in a card deck it goes to the bottom and the new one comes off the top of the pack. Unlike electronic schedule, I never miss an appointment for five years. Suddenly the printer in the Kandy Press stop printing this. Probably I was the only one except the printer himself using this form of weekly schedule. In fact I could say I picked his habit up. I was left high and dry but since I used it regularly for five years and I was less busy
I used to carry this weekly schedule mentally instead on paper. I must say I hate carrying diaries.
Then I was busy again I needed somewhat of a light weight solution. After some search in Colombo, I mange to find one in Pettah. This time with bit of an improvement. I found relatively small (but juts out a bit from top) but with covers of different colours..Red for urgent. Green for current and blue for over an done with it or canceled. This I continued and this year I could not find the red colour cover. I went to the shop (available in Kandy) for three times but I could not find a red one. The printer has decided to prune red edition.
So I was expecting the sales man to say “Sir Giya Awruddhe Cover Eka Danna Ko” (Put the last year’s cover over the new one) and sell another one to me.
This is what I call outsmarting the customer.
I did not. tell him that is what I am going to do now since I get a chance to tease him next time round but bought a brown coloured one and put the last years red cover which was as good as new (come to think about it being an election year I never had any emergency plan of exit). I had a slight problem though. It was a bit tight but I somehow squeezed it through without trimming at one end. Even at the tinniest level there were two elements. One was at analytical other was at the selling (technical) level. The cognitive level has no operative will here. I need not elaborate on all but the correct balance of at least two or three skills are necessary at operational level.
But for completeness sake I should state a phrase I picked up from somewhere. It goes like this. Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress but Working together is success. Sadly that is what is lacking in this country we have become so selfish that working together has become anathema.
It is nice to read “Rich Dad and Poor Dad” for inspiration.
It looks as the currents trends unfolding in Tunisia and Egypt may be a manifestation of this pent up youth energy. We must not let Americans and the West to manipulate this to their advantage and promote their hidden agenda in the name of pseudodemocrasy!.