By Afreen Fatima Jaffery
Civic education, also known as self-governance, is imperative for raising a productive and responsible society. Civic lessons and engagement in community activities should continuously be encouraged for the betterment of society. Even more so in the age of “clicktivism”- when all people need to do is click on a link or “tweet” to support a cause. Tough luck guys, it might bring about awareness, but twitter will not clean up your cities or solve poverty. Instead, we, the youth, should volunteer in organisations that make us to become responsible citizens and think independently to serve our country. This experience can teach us what it means to be embedded in society and also take ownership of our actions (and consequences).
In many, especially developed countries, children are subjected to civic education at a very early age; it is almost second nature for the sake of public good and (more recently) the environment. It can be argued that the socio-economic or political structures support civic education. The youth are made aware of societal matters from the importance of voting and democracy to the relevance of obeying traffic rules, and how their conduct benefits society. That is not to say these countries are free from anti-social behaviour. However, it can be argued, that such behaviour is not as detrimental to society when compared to a less economically developed country– particularly one with a questionable law and order situation.
I am a youth speaking from Pakistan and I feel one reason behind our deteriorating society is because the importance of civic education has never been highlighted at a young age. You won’t find many children aware of their responsibilities as citizens. Yes, organisations such as SHEHRI exist, coming together for the betterment of the environment and civil-society. However, most schools fail to bring to attention the importance of volunteering at NGOs, planting trees or even participating in neighbourhood clean-ups. What schools are teaching children these days is, in my opinion, impractical. Their focus is on making children patriotic, often through lies and falsehood.
What Pakistan needs is the provision of direction, enabling youngsters to find and perform their role as citizens more efficiently. To some extent, it calls for behavior change. This, more practical approach, can include training sessions, volunteering stints at local NGOs, and instructions on how they can protect their environment. Volunteering at organisations not only develops conceptual and critical thinking, but it stimulates empathy and the willingness to support a cause.
It is true, within the sphere of academia, students are encouraged to be part of groups, work in teams and participate in events. However as it stays within the realms of the school building- many see this as something to “get through” while in the education system. I feel, a community or neighbourhood-based approach is better suited as (a) it can continue once we leave school and (b) forming better links within the neighbourhood can prove to be an invaluable support system in times of need.
Having said that, I do feel it is schools that should include civic education as part of their syllabus and motivate children to participate in volunteering activities for various non-profiting organizations at a very early age. Being part of school curriculum means it can be easily structured and monitored approach. Eventually, this would not only benefit society but will also shape the personalities of youth and empower them to think independently.
You can follow Afreen on twitter here: @offfrin
If you are a youth or a youth organisation and would like your voice to be heard then email: firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @development_3 #YouthSpeaks