(This article is by Professor Amita Singh)
‘Youth’ is a fairly sensitive period and often misunderstood as either ‘still a child’ or ‘big enough as an adult’.Nothing explains it better than the quote ‘Youth is a religion from which one always ends up being converted’.Yet very few adults know how this fragile package is to be handled.
The so called ‘youth management’ begins quite early. Parents or the legal guardians provide the garden in which a growing child can spread her wings. If the garden is spiky, filled with pecking avian and gets little sunshine, the personality inadvertently imbibes ample negativity. For a teacher it becomes a challenge to counter this negativity in a classroom as there are adult gangs around them who are always masquerading as their well-wishers to catch them young. Since youth is a very sensitive age in which the world vision is narrow, limited to personal experience and enticed by fashionable ideologies of dreams and demons, it is extremely important to hold this fragile building with a lot of care and caution.
There are many wrongs which the youth encounters and I would name just the three major ones;
First, wrong is committed by those who err in balancing autonomy with accountability in educational institutions. Generally, education administrators either become too hard upon them as an authoritative personality or just too appeasing to allowing unbridled freedom to vent their unreasonable demands.The scars of having suffered an authoritative personality at home only deepens distortions during youth if teachers do not handle this with a psychological understanding. Both for a parent as well as for those who manage educational institutions, it is important to talk to them and take pride in moving two steps backwards, not to appease them but to give them the understanding that there is no winner or loser in a bipartite conflict with students. Only a courageous and experienced administrator can do it. That is the reason why experienced leadership in educational institutions becomes the key to a more confident and meaningful youth.
Second, wrong is committed by those decision makers who think that by distributing scholarship money to these students they are doing something good to their academic lives. A lot of money has been flowing from the government’s coffers as an enabling design for students without an understanding or an evaluation of the fact whether this is actually helping them stand better in their lives. This scholarship has created a deterrence to challenging work areas in learning research which were earlier being handled by students. Most students disappear from the scene of activity once they start receiving scholarships. They are loosing out on many learning skills which help in their career. The scholarship does not fix the number of work hours given to any project or to the departmentwhere they are attached or even involvement in at least one outreach activity beyond self. In countries outside India students work hard to generate their subsistence economy, which if provided by the university, is always accounted to with some work allocation. Most services within the university from office and computer repairs and support,event management, camera support, painting walls, horticulture, gardening, road management, rain water harvesting, office attendants and canteen or mess management can be handled by youth which can give greater honour to manual labour and respect for money. One should understand the power of work ethics which melts boundaries, hierarchies and class divisions which a traditionally divided society has sustained in the form of caste, religion and wealth.
Third, wrong is committed by the educational institutions which fail to understand that youth is a kid in a master’s robe. They go unnoticed without their robe and for which they wear it. The educational administrator’s task is respect their psychology to reach out to the clean, innocent and highly energetic individual in a youth and not to the ruckus, threatening, abusive and intimidating deviant robe which hides and defames them.
Three suggestions here; first, give them (youth) work equivalent to the scholarship which they get and generate a desire to earn ethically. This would also create accountability structures in their academic performance.
Second, the university level unions should now give way to discipline based unions which may help develop their discipline to wider outreach, more sub-disciplines and new positions to work and teach across institutions.
Third, punitive action imposed as cash penalty or rustication should be avoided and in turn be converted to a mandatory work hours to their institutionie; doing everything that a class 3 and class 4 employees do.Similarly unethical practices such as plagiarism should not entail chucking the students’ name from the rolls, instead, a six to one year ethical training in language and ethics can be more restorative of youth power.
Every confident teacher has a lot of faith in one’s students even though there are many agitated and self-gratifying enemies to divert them to roadless journeys. Notwithstanding anything,this kindling faith is ‘youth power’ which would take them to new heights, achievements and honours in their lives.
(Author is a Professor at Centre for the Study of Law and Governance and Chairperson, Special Centre for Disaster Research, JNU)