Challenges Before the Youth
Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam

The world belongs to youth, for it is they who are going to inherit it soon from the present generation. If the present crop of government, bureaucracy, corporate, academia and other fields have experience on their side, youth have energy and time as their precious assets.

Permanent availability of youth in adequate members in a society depends on its birth rate. Today counties like Russia, France and Japan are in the midst of a serious lack of young persons to run their economy and sustain the payment of old age pensions. It takes the earning of several young persons to sustain one ld pensioner’s expenses and upkeep.

Naturally, the expenses the younger citizens have to meet is not just the financing and upkeep of old citizens but quite a few expenses on their own and their wives, and their children’s needs. Only a part of it goes to sustain the old. That is why it takes several young persons to sustain a single old person in his or her retirement. That is why a steady birth rate is essential.

Even such a populations country as China will have to begin in porting young men from other countries in the years ahead as its population has begun to age quickly. Its economy and industry will suffer as there will be fewer younger persons to run economy.

On the other hand, India’s population is far more younger, which is being reckoned as source of strength vis-à-vis China. The single-child norm implemented over the last few decades has brought China to this pass, while in India the official position has been not one child, but two – Hum do Hamaare do. Even that has not been mandatory. What has so far been condemned as a demographic liability so far has turned out to be an asset. Population is a sword that cuts both ways: it is not just that an extra child is an additional month to feed, but two hands to work and earn at a later stage as well.

From any point of view, youth is a great asset for society. However, this asset can also become a liability if it is left uneducated and untrained. It is a fact that a huge number of our youth are not able to produce value and deliver the goods. For that we need sound education and perfect training.

We produce arts and science graduates and MAs and MScs, but we are not able to utilise them in our development. Japan, China and Western countries produce a large number of high school graduates and give than skill training which is marketable. Right away they become members of the skilled work force and productive members of their society as our Bas and MAs sit idle. In India we import skilled workers from China because we do not impart skill training.

Besides making our youth productive, we have also to inculcate in them a sense of responsibility as citizens of this country. Only responsible citizens can take this country very far.

We have also to devise ways of giving our children a sound moral education and training in right conduct. We can look for sources of such education within Islamic tradition, the Quran and the Sunnah.

The challenges before us are multi-dimensional. One of the most acute problems is high-quality education as pointed out by the National Knowledge Commission. It suggests an x-member of schools colleges and universities to create the kind of youth. We would require in days ahead. That is fine. However, the larger question to be addressed is regarding accessibility. Can our people, with so widespread poverty, ever hope to get access to these envisaged institutions of higher learning? The answer is ‘No’. Only a small percentage of our people can afford it. Let us give some thought to the issue of increasing access to such institution for children of aam adami.

The education scenario is developing quickly in India, but it is deficient on tow major counts. It is not accessible to common people and it does not train students to be morally responsible people. That way we are producing seriously deficient young persons.

That leaves us with two responsibilities: The Muslim community has more educational institutions of its own which provide good education at an affordable price. These institutions should also have a moral teaching component.

However, the second responsibility is the larger and more prominent one. It is that we must spare time to teach our children at home and also give them a robust sense of morality through consistent teaching and training over the years.

It is rightly said that there is no short cut to scholarship. Add to that, there is no short cut to creation of useful human resource in the form of educated, trained and morally upright youth. It will take years of consistent hard work. Be prepared for that.

(The above is an edited version of Dr Alam’s address at Chennai on December 10, 2011)