Since the adoption of Security Council Resolution 2250 in 2015, there is a growing recognition that as agents of change, young people are critical actors in conflict prevention and sustaining peace. International Youth Day 2017 is dedicated to celebrate youth contributions to conflict prevention and transformations as well as inclusion, social justice, and sustainable peace. Giving it a start IYAP celebrated International Youth Day with its newest District committee in Galle with a workshop under the theme “Youth Building and Peace.’ Where 20 young personalities, from several ethnic groups, Sinhala, Tamil and Muslim were invited to share their skills and their contribution to peace building in their respective areas. At the end of the half-day workshop, the group laid out their plans and ideas for future projects and showed a great commitment to start working together towards peace building. On the very same day in Bangladesh , IYAP formed it’s new international youth group and hosted another event, which was named as ‘Peace Adda’ in the Bengali language with the intention to reach the globe and to share opinions of the youth around the world.
Moving back to Sri Lanka, under the same theme peace and youth empowerment, the project Peace in Action, was started by IYAP on the 1st of July 2017 in collaboration with a non-profit organization called SERVE and British Council’s Active Citizens project. IYAP will be carrying out this project for 12 weeks aiming students from grades 1 to 11.
As a success that remained well in our hearts on this day of August 12th, we managed to host several activities regarding the International Youth Day with these kids in making them aware of the day and its importance. In the beginning the details sounded a bit complex to them, yet when briefing the facts, the thoughts that came out through their heads were mind blowing.
First let me brief you some of the questions that were given to them on this particular day.
“Do we have peace in Sri lanka? What is Peace? How is it disturbed?”
At the start ironically, they were also thinking whether we have peace in Sri Lanka.
Next, they said “Peace is, living simply and happily in harmony with each other” then they listed out the disturbing factors as, “stealing, murdering, ethnic issues, illegal tree cutting and daily family quarrels.”
Fascinatingly, these little minds brought out solutions that we would never have thought. They said that education is more important. According to them it is the base. When people are unable to fulfill this so-called foundation, they tend to break the peace in a country. If you have your basic education, being poor is less likely. You’ll tend to find a job. It may not be a white-collar job yet something decent, something that will keep life going, something that keeps one away from breaking the rules and law of a country.
Yet my question to you is, is it possible? A basic education for everyone? specially in this dramatic educational race full of people craving for more and more money and status?
Pausing the thought I asked these students who they like to be when they grow up? And whether they like to go to the university?
First words like engineers, teachers, lawyers came out of their mouths, yet once I mentioned the word university, they became hesitant to answer. They said they were not sure whether it will work out. They said it might be hard. It is when they started to mention their backup plans. One student mentioned that he might play rugby and be a good player another said he wants to join the army and another had a backup plan of being an educated politician.
So, in a world where even the basic foundation is a hard task to many people; Will maintaining peace and social justice make sense? I don’t think so.
Initially, before teaching the youth how to maintain and keep peace and social justice in a country, I believe that educating them is more important. Rather than their right for education, they have a likeness hidden within them that is barricaded by poverty, money, status and illegal ruling of the higher societies.
Free education is available, yet the question is whether it is delivered properly? If it is, why do people run behind tutors after school? Why is this so called educational race so fierce?
When searching for answers one might come across things such as; the poorly delivered education system, and due to the inability of the poor to attend to private classes. As a result, students from slums, coastal areas tend to hold back their dreams and hopes. They tend to stop them at one point that they are unable to attend to.
So as a member of this whole youth in action and peace building, I believe as youth we have a duty to perform, for the ones in need, people who are unable to learn further, who are unable to face the challenging future educational system. As youth volunteers of a developing country, as educated people we have an obligation to give back to this free education system. We need to join hand in hand in educating the emerging youth, for free. Because for them education for money is worthless. They’ll rather learn as much as they can and start to earn. Once the money is not enough they’ll start doing all sorts of illegal activities. As the students said; “They need to live! They need to survive!”
Therefore, I believe it is our responsibility to build peace by educating the future youth and helping them out in peace keeping. It is the only way one can look out for a better International youth day that will come up again next year. August 12th is merely a date, which is endorsed to remind us of what we have to do. This obligation cannot end in weeks or months it needed to be carried out continuously. For that, youth volunteers need to get together and implement projects to teach the students who are eagerly waiting to learn. I believe that is all what an international youth day can teach you. The way to stand up for one another when you have the capability to do so. So, it’s time not to hesitate and think but it’s time to act up in peacebuilding for a better future which will contain a better version of peacekeeping.