Why youth? (Unabridged)

“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct,  in love, in faith, in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12

Allow me to share a very short personal story as a prelude.

It’s been over two months since my personal laptop and ipad were stolen inside our Department office in the University where I work as a young professor. Combined, the amount would equate to my salary for three months. It was devastating for me for two reasons: first, I am not a rich dude who can afford to buy a new laptop right away; and second, the files in that laptop include photos and youth development projects that I was supposed to share with my students and colleagues. For days, I cried over those precious gadgets. My attachment to personal gadgets skipped the very essence of what those gadgets are for. In time, God has made me realize that it is certainly unwise to invest on material things; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Material things will only have value when they’re used for ‘greater’ purposes. That was a transformative experience, altering my mindset, and fueled this earnest desire to pursue other possibilities especially in the development sector.

I have been teaching for four years – three years in an elite high school and one year in a public (state) university. Prior to these experiences, I had been involved in outreach activities sponsored by our local church in urban poor areas through teaching youngsters and teens. With these experiences plus the fact that I attended both public and private institutions, I can attest to the social inequalities in my country in terms of education. I can still vividly remember concrete examples by observation and actual interaction: brothers who share one school uniform (one uses it in the morning, the other wears it in the afternoon), kids who sell plastic bags for school allowance, and freshmen students who can afford to travel abroad on the weekend right after the exam week. The first youngsters barely made it through high school, and when they did, they ended up as meagerly-paid laborers; while the latter students have gone to one of the four elite universities in my country. Against this backdrop, I silence in reflection: Certainly, there is an educational gap; the next issue would be: Is this educational gap the cause of socio-economic inequality or the effect of the latter? The last but most important concern is: What ought to be done?

Educational gaps further widen socio-economic inequality; this imbalance in effect further widens educational gap especially when the privileged few remain in their social comfort zones. While many analysts would say that the government should be the primary player in responding to this national problem, it is also every people’s responsibility to ‘respond’ indeed to these problems according to what they have. That’s the missing link in the education-development nexus.

If we only focus on providing education for the youth, that itself will not suffice in achieving sustainable development. Given the relationship between educational gap and socio-economic inequality, the problems will continue because the rich continues to relish in their comfort zone. I tried to be part of the solution: I penetrated into their circles by teaching (and influencing) the sons of the privileged class in this country to be ‘men for others.’ I’m not sure if it worked. I just believe I did my part.

Integral to the goal of bridging gaps in small but meaningful ways is to also immerse oneself in the spheres of the less-privileged. I had the opportunity to teach in a state university which receives meager budget for higher education. Despite this fiscal problem, I would encourage my students to be true to becoming ‘scholars of and for the people.’ In order to maximize the goal of reaching out to the less-privileged, it is imperative to empower them with the knowledge and skills they need for actual work more than mere access to education.

Education should be a tool for empowerment. When the youth is genuinely empowered, they can contribute to sustainable development.

That’s what I have been trying to do. As a young teacher, I would always tell my students that the very essence of learning is giving back. When we receive something, we pay forward, and that leads to progress. Neither do I just teach them theories nor do I only provide data for analysis. We should teach them how to make sense of these theories, stories, and data, and inspire them to respond in action. Theories are just theories. Concepts are just concepts. But values and meaning, they matter. More importantly, action or work matters.

Now, that’s empowerment.

The guy who stole my units is a young man, witnesses said, probably a struggling student. That happens to many young men and women who got lost because of the illnesses of this wretched world. I initially hated that young robber. But he’s also a victim. People like him need to be reached out.

In May, I will be leaving my professorial ‘work’ at the University. I believe that something’s coming up for me. I don’t know it yet. I just believe that the Lord has been leading me to greater heights, or perhaps He will usher me down the mount to reach out to more people, especially the less privileged youth.

At age twenty-seven, I consider myself relatively young to explore countless possibilities to explore and innovate; yet also relatively getting older hence the need for me to decide on what I really want to do in life. Perhaps, these are just some of the major challenges for the youth of this generation – to reflect on their special role in the society, to maximize their potential, and actively take part in every opportunity to help build a better community.

This way, we share in the learning process, empowering the youth so that we may all contribute to development.

Why youth? Because we can, and we should.


“Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct,  in love, in faith, in purity.” – 1 Timothy 4:12


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