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By Arinbomen Star
The United Nations (UN) defines ‘youth’ as persons between the ages of 15 and 24. However, while it admits that the basis for the age range in its definition is essentially statistical, the body also acknowledges that it has no prejudice against the variation in the age component of the definition of ‘youth’ by its member states. The African Youth Charter (2006), for instance, adopts the age range of 15 to 35 in its definition of ‘youth’.
From a societal viewpoint, ‘youth’ connote persons at impressionable ages, that is, ages at which the mind can be influenced and its potentials directed towards a desired end. In this context, youth refers to individuals with the physical, mental and psychological capacities to imbibe new ideas and concepts; and subsequently translate those ideas and concepts into wealth for the uplift and prosperity of their society.
The youth constitute the vanguards of change and development in any given society; and the potentialities for revolutionizing such a society repose in them. National development, on the other hand, is a holistic concept that encompasses social, economic and political progressions in a nation. It is a state of human and material well-being in a nation. A developed nation possesses the capacity and the wherewithal to meet the needs and aspirations of its people and to be a source of succour to other nations who look up to it. Also, it is in tune with global developmental advances in all walks of life.
A complementary relationship exists between ‘youth’ and ‘national development’. The nexus is akin to that which exists between a lock and a key. The youth are the key that unlock the door to the development of a nation. Therefore, the quest for national development should be predicated on a sustainable scheme to comprehensively develop and harness the potentials of the youth. Any nation that envisages real and lasting development without commensurate investment in the youth is merely building castles in the air.
Developing a nation is a process that requires vision and insight driven by presence of mind. Through vision and insight, the leaders of a nation appreciate the human mind as a vital tool for building a virile and prosperous nation; and this understanding propels them to place a premium on youth development. Moreover, fostering youth development is a Herculean task that requires robust social, economic and political drives. In the light of this, it is imperative that a national government demonstrates unflinching political will towards this cause. As the saying goes, “you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs”. Therefore, adequate investment in the youth is sine qua non for national development.
Furthermore, investment in youth is an exhaustive cause whose success hinges on genuine commitments by the government and other relevant national institutions. It behoves the government of a nation, therefore, to be in the vanguard of this cause by designing the modus operandi and coordinating the other institutions in order to create the required synergies. Investment in youth involves, among other things, providing quality education and healthcare services for the youth; creating a congenial socio-economic environment that enables the youth to realize and maximize their potentials; inculcating sound morals and ideals in the youth; affording the youth a class of leaders with the trappings of genuine role models and suchlike.
For a nation to experience true and enduring development in every facet of its existence, it must place a premium on the education of its youth. Education is a tool for emancipating the human psyche from the tangles of ignorance, obscurity and barbarity; and reprogramming it with ingenious and creative ideas. Through education, the human mind is transformed into a sophisticated asset, which is imbued with the capacity to create new inventions and engender positive transformations in its milieu. John F. Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States of America, wrote: “Our progress as a nation can be no swifter than our progress in education. The human mind is our fundamental resource”. This timeless assertion underscores the place of comprehensive youth education in the development of a nation. It is little wonder, therefore, that his fatherland today epitomizes an El Dorado, which most nations of the world look up to for succour; while others strive to measure up to its standards. The same nation has become a Mecca for many ambitious and enterprising youth, who hail from climes where mundanity is celebrated in preference to sublimity.
It should be reckoned that the kind of education that primes the youth for nation-building is all-round education. This form of education impacts positively on all domains of human existence. It equips the youth intellectually, psychologically and physically. It offers them both mental and physical dexterities; and bolsters their morale in their endeavours. Through the instrumentality of all-round education, a nation is afforded a class of youth with problem-solving acumen and impetus for making forays into new frontiers. However, such education should be established on a durable framework which guarantees its continuity; and it should be made affordable to every youth, irrespective of their pedigree or socio-economic status.
Moreover, raising youth with the capacity for nation-building requires that adequate attention be paid to their health right from cradle. Health, as it is often said, is wealth. A state of physical well-being will, inevitably, culminate in soundness of mind; and a sound mind is an invaluable resource, which can be readily infused with the principles and ideals required for building a virile nation. Genuine commitment to the health and vitality of its youth will spur a nation to continually upgrade its healthcare system to conform to globally acceptable standards. A state-of-the-art healthcare system will reduce childhood mortality and promote longevity. It will also ensure that youth spend their productive years truly contributing to the development of their nation.
In the same vein, for youth development to engender national development, the social, economic and political configurations of a nation must guarantee the youth the right platforms to translate their acquired skills and ideas into wealth. In order to facilitate this translation process, government must create adequate job opportunities for youth in all walks of life. This will ensure that the youth are engaged in creative ventures, where their potentialities can be harnessed appropriately. Besides, the right incentives must be provided for youth who desire to make forays into entrepreneurship. It is worth-knowing that any nation that fails in this regard will, undoubtedly, experience both brain drain and national stagnation.
The role of social and religious institutions in youth and national development cannot be overemphasized. The family, being the basic social institution in the society, is obligated to contribute to the development of the youth. By inculcating sound morals and social etiquette in the youth and contributing to their career pursuits, the family lives up to its social responsibilities to the youth. Religious institutions, such as churches and mosques, also constitute veritable stakeholders in the process of youth and national development. Through edifying religious teachings, the minds of the youth can be primed with the right ideals and ideologies, which will ultimately engender peaceful coexistence and harmonious relationships in the society. A society where peace and harmony reign is a fertile ground for human and material prosperity.
Another important factor that engenders youth development, with a resultant effect on national development, is the presence upstanding leaders at the helm of a nation’s affairs. These are leaders whom the youth can look up to as worthy role models; and whose moral uprightness inspires the youth to become agents of positive change in the society. The bane of most underdeveloped and developing nations of the world today is the dearth of national leaders with moral scruples. A nation that is governed by leaders who are morally upright and above board is poised to experience growth and progress in every facet of its existence. While a nation flourishes under the watch of upstanding leaders, the psyches of its youth are primed with sterling virtues. With integrity and patriotism inculcated in its youth, a nation is set on the path of enduring progress and prosperity.
Given the foregoing, it is evident that the development of a nation is contingent on the development of its youth. However, for youth development to translate into national development, all national stakeholders must be committed to making the necessary sacrifices. The government must place a premium on youth education, while ensuring that the youth have unfettered access to quality healthcare services. Besides, the socio-economic structure of a nation must provide a congenial environment that allows the youth to translate their conceptual and physical prowess into wealth. Similarly, families and religious organizations must impart the right ideals and ideologies into the youth. Very importantly, the government of a nation must be run by upstanding and scrupulous leaders, who demonstrate strong political will to harness the skills and creativity of its youth for national development.
Arinbomen Star writes from Ibadan, he can be reached via email@example.com