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Dialogue with youth urged to address their problems

Lahore — Experts at a two-day consultation stressed that the state and educational institutions should engage the youth by initiating dialogue and promoting critical thinking among them, as a policy, to address their problems and make them productive citizens.

They said that the present education system of the country has failed to socialize youth; rather it is creating a vacuum that is being fulfilled by social media in a negative way. They also called for creating economic opportunities for youth through technical and real-life learning.

Academics, political activists, journalists, lawyers, and representatives of civil society, and youth, among others, participated in the consultation on “Promoting Narratives of Diversity, Inclusion, and Peace among Youth.” Pak Institute for Peace Studies (PIPS), an Islamabad-based research and advocacy think tank, organized the event here at a local hotel.

The purpose of the consultation, which had four sessions on different themes, was to know how youth can build cultural awareness and develop understanding of the dynamics of multiculturalism.

The discussion was held on finding strategies to incorporate religious, and ethnic diversity into the present education system to improve youths’ social skills to interact in a multicultural setting. The discussants also explored social media’s influence on youths’ perception of themselves and the world around them, impact of misinformation overload on youth, and the role of social media in shaping up social and emotional characters of young people.

Professor of Sociology at the University of the Punjab Dr. Khalil Ahmad taking part in the discussion said that education was the key for peaceful coexistence. “We should focus on education as an organization and at the level of content, and processing.” He said that the government would have to introduce a comprehensive judicious education policy as the present one has failed to socialize the youth.

“Youth should be engaged,” said Ahmad, adding that it was the primary responsibility of universities to initiate a dialogue among students to make them productive citizens. He also said that there was a need to introduce a mechanism for prudent use of social media. He emphasized for introducing exchange programmes among different universities to promote diversity, and inclusion among youth.

Educationist and writer Dr Amjad Tufail stressed the need for bringing social justice to address problems of youth and to bring peace in the society. “Peace cannot prevail in a society where there is no social justice.” He viewed that the caste-based system in the country, especially in Punjab, was also a major hurdle in bringing social harmony in the society.

Tufail said that the present education system was theory-based; rather it should also provide basic skills to students, which could help them find employment opportunities.

Former Vice Chancellor of the University of Sargodha Dr Muhammad Saleem Mazhar underlined that they would have to teach culture, fine arts, literature, and music to youth to change their behaviours and bring tolerance among them.

Research associate at the Centre for Social Justice Ms Faaria Khan said that they need mainstreaming of all religions, and genders to inculcate diversity, and inclusion among youth and in the society.

Ms Amna Kausar of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) said that Punjab Youth Policy was in the field with focus on “education, employment, engagement, and environment.” She said that the oversight role of provincial lawmakers with regard to implementation of the youth policy was weak. She called for empowering youth socially, politically, and economically by reviving student unions.

“We should provide youth with guidance, confidence, training, and platforms to facilitate them to build their careers,” said President Lahore Bar Association Rana Intezar Hussain. He added that youth should focus on personal development, and time-management and move forward by setting their own goals.