A positively-oriented younger
Sri Lanka has come some
distance from those times when the belief was widespread that
our Arts graduates in particular were a doomed lot. Apata puthe
magak nathe or 'for us son, there is no future', was the common
lament among the elders of these graduates of those times who
shared the view of their youngsters that the future was indeed
bleak and riddled with uncertainties.
A fatalistic attitude seemed to grip not only the elders and
their wards but even their political leaders who in those times
seemed to think that there were no easy answers to the graduate
unemployment imbroglio. To be sure, there is no very easy way
out of this decades-long problem but we just cannot afford to
throw our hands up in despair and make no attempt to resolve it.
Perhaps, a more positively disposed older generation which did
not relapse into passivity in the face of this crisis would have
made a dent in the problem and prevented bloody upheavals, such
as, the 1971 armed youth insurrection from occurring. Those of
the older generation would recollect that youth unemployment was
the number one issue, in the failed uprising of 1971 which
claimed youthful lives in the thousands.
The lack of effective communication between the country's
political leaders and the younger generation would emerge as a
key factor in the growing disillusionment of the youth of those
times. The young needed elders who could give them hope and
there seemed to be very few or none among the latter in those
times. However, it needs to be pointed out that smooth-talking
and rhetorical elders and leaders were not the answer either.
The North-East was not short of this kind of political leader
and it hardly need be stated that the consequences for the
youngsters of those provinces were nothing short of terrible.
For instance, if not for the elusive dream of Eelam, which was
floated by some of their elders, very many of these Northern and
Eastern youngsters would not have lost their lives in a hopeless
conflict with the state.
Be that as it may, the onus is on the country's current
leaders to inspire the younger generation with a sense of its
own worth and one of the chief means of achieving this is
effective and uplifting communication from the older to the
young. The aim should not be to fill the hearts of the young
with ambitions and hopes which could not be achieved but to give
them the self-confidence of forging bravely ahead in the face of
difficulties and obstacles to establish for themselves minimum
material and other conditions which could ensure for them a life
of dignity and contentment.
The positive side of economic liberalization is that it paves
the way for the achievement of some of our economic needs,
although all could not be said to be well with the open economy
in general. While the minuses are aplenty in this growth
paradigm, it cannot be disputed that opportunities for economic
advancement are numerous under market-driven growth, provided
they are judiciously exploited.
Besides, our system of higher education should be geared to
enabling our younger generation to make good use of these
opportunities. Thus far, the unfortunate tendency among our
youth has been to look up to the state sector for purely white
collar jobs which seem to offer some job security. However, this
is no solution to the problem of youth unemployment because job
opportunities in the public sector are not numerous and are in
fact not the best answer to those who want to use their inner
strengths to the maximum. Prospects, on the other hand, are
generally bright, for those who would earn for themselves a
university degree but 'think outside the box' when it comes to
finding avenues of employment.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa has expressed this interesting
idea of bringing into being young men and women of learning,
'who could see the world beyond their own horizons.' He went on
to explain that this new young person would be vigorous in both
mind and body, be inspired by positive attitudes and be filled
with a love for his or her country.
In other words, our new young person would have supreme
confidence in his or her self and love his or her country and be
always motivated by the belief that what is wholesome and good
in his or her life is always within reach. This amounts to
'thinking outside the box' and needs to be seriously considered
and practised because the young have to get out of the
'dependency syndrome' which has been bedeviling some of its
There are opportunities out there in the economy which need
to be steadily exploited if one is to climb out of want and only
self-confidence could help in this enterprise, besides the
acquiring of marketable skills.
This inspiring thought needs to be driven into the
consciousness of the young consistently if a younger generation
is to come into being which is least dependent on the state and
its handouts. The young need to clearly see that there is no
alternative to personal initiative.