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The victory of Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi for the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize has marked one of the most historical days in the current centuries. Malala, who is just 17 years old when receiving the award, shows that a young person can be a driving engine for global change. She has been actively struggling to eliminate suppression against children and to ensure the freedom of education to all young people. Her inspiring spirit has ignited the hopes that youth can be someone significant.
Another proof that youths can contribute big is shown by the latest “umbrella movement” in Hong Kong. Thousands of students are marching and struggling to build a pro-democracy government. 17-year-old Joshua Wong, is one of the initiators who lead hundreds of young people trying to pursue a greater democracy and to choose their own leader.
As Indonesians, we must be proud of ourselves whenever we talk about youth involvement in our country. Going back in 1928, Indonesian youths had committed themselves to embrace the unity of nation, resulting the magnificent Youth Pledge.
At that time, the issue of disintegration was very serious, therefore the youths across the nation got together on 28th October 1928 to pledge that they would be united under one country and nation called Indonesia and one language called Bahasa Indonesia.
The spirit of The Youth Pledge had inspired tons of movement to fight for the independence. And because of its massive impact, The Youth Pledge is celebrated every year. The influence was not only for the youth, but also for all people. Yes, the idea of involving youths in the development a nation is not new. And in this 21st century, the role of youth has become more progressing.
There are at least two major reasons why youths should be considered as an important player to develop a nation. First, youths hold an enormous energy and ideals. It is no secret that youths are always passionate in doing something. Psychologically, a human being in adolescent phase will have more creativity to contribute.
Second, youth is the current generation who lives within today’s challenges. With its dynamic movement, the world needs a generation who can also embrace such dynamicity. In this cyber era, the flow of information moves from one place to another in a very unimaginable speed. We witness how the use of Twitter and Facebook in assisting international protesters during Arab Spring and Hong Kong “Umbrella Movement”. We see how powerful Youtube can send the message to end discrimination in the US and India. In Indonesia, it’s predicted that there are 30 million youths actively use the internet. Therefore, the youths hold powerful key to put something going viral.
Despite all potentials that youths have, Indonesian youths encounter some serious problems. Those problems are: 1) lack of nationalism and patriotism, 2) increasing number of juvenile delinquency, 3) lack of job opportunity, 4) low education quality. Such problems really endanger the unity of nation as youths claims the 27% of the total citizen in Indonesia. When the government does not provide sufficient attention and proper assistance toward youths, they will be very difficult to contribute and participate more in national development.
Youths need some tangible assistance in order to participate positively for the country. They must be involved on the politics, education, economy and cultural development more actively. Youths must be emerged with the real political engagements so when they start to initiate a consolidation or movement, they are aware of their role and significance.
There are some actions that can be done in order to maximize youths’ potential for the country. First, through education, government must empower the curriculum which strengthens the character quality of youths as the open-minded, tolerant, honest, and knowledgeable generation. Of course, the plan must not only go into theoretical frame such as school subjects and classroom learning, but also giving them hands-on activities such as field visit, civil service, volunteer program etc. such activities are important to make sure that students can get access toward intercultural environment.
Second, society must encourage the youths to be more sensitive and responsive toward the current happenings. Society needs to also assist the youths to participate more on the social activities which can give them access to channel out their creativity and aspiration.
Again, the struggle will never reach the goal when not all stake holders get their heart set on it. Therefore, realizing the sanctity of youth to a nation development must is everyone’s responsibility.
The moment of youth pledge this year is special because we have lots of examples on how youths can inspire the world. Reminiscing the spirit of Youth Pledge can be a good reminder that whatever challenge youths may encounter, there will be no white flag raised because youths do not scare easily as shown by our founding fathers back in 1928.
About the author
Kunto took his master degree in Foreign and Second Language Education at The Ohio State University, USA. Currently, he is running his own English training center in Indonesia while assisting students of USINTEC International Dual Master’s Degree Program in Education.