Passing the baton

Young people need models, not critics.

John Wooden, American basketball coach

Nelson Mandela’s inspirational advice to young people that they are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom is a coherent indictment for the older generation to be the vanguard.

Malaysia hit a home run when the voting age was lowered from 21 to 18 years on July 16 2019. Parliament witnessed 211 votes in favor of this milestone creating an eight-million voter pool of raw talent waiting to be honed and refined as leaders.

No efforts must be spared to offer youth all available resources. There can be no better investment. Well-guided youth groomed for leadership roles can make the difference for any nation to achieve greatness with a corresponding infusion of newer ideas.

Educational institutions may require adjustments to cater to those who do not believe in passing school tests and examinations to succeed in life. This is a rare breed of self-starters whose talents, skills and abilities await full manifestation and expression.

English author Rudyard Kipling on dedicated teachers: “No printed word, nor spoken plea can teach young minds what they should be. Not all the books on the shelves — but what the teachers are themselves.”

Educational institutions established as teaching and testing centres must give equal focus to character building, scout out those inclined to excel in sports and other recreational activities. Young people exhibiting promise and potential to excel must be accorded special privileges.

Religious institutions play an equally crucial role to guide the young to the path to right thinking to develop a fruitful way of life instead of leaving this responsibility only to parents who are not always prepared to instill moral convictions on developing minds.

The mistake made by older people is when they think they are doing the right thing by motivating the young especially when it appears to them that they are going about it the right way. As President Franklin D Roosevelt cautioned, “we cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future”.

Great and still greater things are waiting to be conceptualised, developed and made possible as generation after generation ventures forth towards the cycle of eternity. The young have new horizons to meet and great missions to accomplish. They must experience the best of encouragement and motivation.

Indian politician Dr P S Jagdeesh Kumar remarked that old minds have the power to create history, but young minds have the power to change history. This is the key to which every lock will genuflect with a symbiotic relationship between older and young minds.

In 1995, the American Bar Association passed a resolution to encourage the formation of Youth Courts, where young participants, under supervision could act as judges, jurors, clerks, bailiffs, and counsel to try cases involving first time juvenile offenders charged with crimes and misdemeanors.

Law and justice take a centre stage in our lives. It is refreshingly welcome to see such a programme take root. Great and mighty things can happen if the older generation can get into the minds of the young. Watching young peoples’ mind at work can be a fascinating experience.

The Centre for Justice Innovation in the United Kingdom established in 2008 is aimed at the similar purpose to bring about a greater understanding of how young people, think act, react and interact in the context of juvenile delinquency. This Brain Trust has seen remarkable results.

Young people under the age of 18 years in Malaysia are well protected and guarded by the Children and Young Persons (Employment) Act 1966. It is a watershed in law-making although applicable only to the protection of their (non-hazardous) employment rights.

Malaysia may pass a law styled the Youth Inclusion and Skills Enhancement Act enumerating the rights of youth nearing the age of 18 years to be eligible for leadership courses with emphasis on the desperate need to tap young leaders for the infusion of new blood in the business of government.

The trailblazing 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as legal right-holders together with the European Convention of Human Rights that protects rights of children portends well for passing the baton to our future leaders.

It would be an act of abject unkindness and gross ignorance to allow the evaporation of enthusiasm in matters relating to motivating and encouraging youth with all the available resources.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.