Youth and Adolescents Education in Service of Community

By | August 31, 2019


I now give the floor to the first speaker
on my list, the representative of the Baha’i International Community. Thank you Honorable Chair, Distinguished Delegates,
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, The Baha’i International Community is pleased
that the Commission has chosen to focus on youth and adolescents. It is especially during this critical individuals
begin to realize their potential as protagonists of change in their communities and nations. Despite the many challenges that our young
people are inheriting, we must not see them as merely victims. Rather, youth and adolescents represent a
tremendous source of intellectual and social potential waiting to be channeled towards
constructive ends. Our contribution to this Session of the Commission
focuses on education. Specifically, we wish to draw attention to
a particular dimension, namely education in service of community, which, in our experience,
is central to the transformation of the individual and community life. The future of today’s society will depend
to a great extent on the manner in which educational programs are designed to release the latent
potential of young people. Therefore, formal education needs to go beyond
the exclusive aim of helping young people secure gainful employment. Educational processes should assist young
people to recognize and express their potential while developing their capacity to contribute
to the spiritual and material prosperity of their communities. This two-fold moral purpose—to develop one’s
potential and to channel that potential to the betterment of society—provides an important
axis of the educational process. If we examine the influences shaping the minds
of youth and adolescents, we can see that many forces breed passivity and a desire to
be entertained. In line with this trend, many educational
programs perceive young people as mere receptacles of information. The worldwide Bahá’í community, in collaboration
with many others, is endeavoring to develop a culture which promotes an independent way
of thinking, studying and acting, in which students are active, self-directed, and united
by a desire to work towards the common good. Though conditions vary greatly from community
to community, the centrality of knowledge to the flourishing of youth and adolescents
remains unchanged. Access to knowledge is the right of every
human being, and the responsibility to generate new knowledge and apply it in socially beneficial
ways rests on the shoulders of every young person. In the same way, the creation of an environment
conducive to this process is a duty of every government. Meaningful participation also takes the form
of safe and productive employment. Education that does not instill in youth an
awareness of their role as active citizens, and the needs of their communities, further
weakens young people’s prospects for employment. This in turn contributes to the exodus of
educated young people from rural to urban areas, and from non-industrialized to industrialized
nations. Young people, though often perceived as simply
the beneficiaries of education, must be involved in the development of educational systems. In this way, educational processes could be
more closely aligned with the needs and aspirations of young people and their communities. All have the right and responsibility to play
their part in the betterment of society and the advancement of civilization. To this end, the inequities of girls’ access
to quality education must be addressed. Governments must urgently follow through on
their commitments to prohibit the unjust practices of infanticide, prenatal sex selection, female
genital mutilation, trafficking of girl children and the use of girls in prostitution and pornography. Addressing these critical challenges and extending
educational opportunities to girls rests on the understanding that the equality of men
and women, boys and girls is more than a desirable condition to be achieved for the good of society;
indeed, it is a fundamental truth about human reality. Distinguished Delegates, Excellencies, Ladies
and Gentlemen, In closing: The investments that governments make in the
education and health of their youth and adolescents represent no less than an investment in the
stability, security and prosperity of the nation itself. Educational approaches and methods, guided
by the needs and aspirations of respective communities, and inspired by the awareness
of inestimable potential latent in every child, will awaken youth and adolescents not only
to their own intellectual capabilities but also to their role as protagonists of change
in their communities and in the world. 2

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