Young people and the enormous opportunity to transform India and world’s future
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, India’s young people have led from the front, assuming the responsibility to work towards a better, resilient society.
One example was 22-year-old #YoungWarrior, Manpreet Kaur, in Ferozepur village, Punjab. Forced to discontinue her own high school studies, she understood the importance of education and used her modest resources to provide classroom coaching for children who did not have access to smartphones. She opened her house to classes of 8-10 students while maintaining social distance.
Then there was 18-year-old Aslam from Delhi who put his personal loss of losing his father aside and risked his own health to provide 600 families with lifesaving oxygen cylinders during an intense phase of the pandemic. While the capital was reeling under COVID, Aslam and his team of volunteers used their own funds to buy five cylinders which they delivered to people battling for their lives.
India’s young people have displayed exemplary leadership and resilience to come up with hyper-local and innovative solutions, even as they were dealing with multiple personal struggles. In some cases, young people lost parents, teachers and caregivers to the virus - leaving them without proper care. They also faced mental health issues, as lockdowns shut them off from their vital support networks. Young people have been at the forefront of safeguarding their families, communities, and the nation, whether distributing supplies, rallying funds, or monitoring the availability of oxygen cylinders or beds.
Now the country needs to step up and prepare our young people for the future. With learning severely impacted during COVID-19, they need essential life and employability skills to succeed in their chosen careers. This will require a conscious effort to provide a broad set of knowledge, skill sets, work habits, and character traits.
According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report , the top skills for 2025 are critical thinking, analytical thinking, innovation, problem-solving, creativity, leadership, resilience, emotional intelligence, and digital literacy. Not surprisingly, the list is full of deeply human capabilities which are not easily replaceable by an algorithm or a machine. And they are all skills that every one of us can learn.
These skills not only provide a foundation for successful learning in the classroom but also ensure young people can thrive in a world where change is constant and learning never stops. India should also address the psycho-social impact that COVID-19 has had on young people’s mental and emotional well-being.
Against this backdrop, #YoungWarriorNXT was introduced by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Central Board of Secondary Education, YuWaah (Generation Unlimited India), UNICEF, and several partners from the Government, the private sector and civil society. #YoungWarriorNXT aims to empower five million young people with essential life skills to enable them to pursue successful lives and careers.
Learning resources are offered through multiple channels - from no-technology to technology-based delivery models including Chatbots, innovation challenges, DIY kits delivered to homes, and IVRS number, community radio, and many more platforms to target the largest number of young people nationwide.
Young people will learn these critical life and employability skills and will receive certificates of participation and completion. To be part of #YoungWarriorNXT, young people can simply send YWNXT to +91 96504 14141 on WhatsApp, or go to UReport India Facebook Page, and send YWNXT on Facebook messenger. For more information: www.yuwaah.org/youngwarrior.
It is instrumental for us, as a nation, to understand how the world is changing and impacting young people. Until we can identify challenges and know how they respond to them, we will not address their needs. Our responsibility is to give India’s young people hope, opportunity, life skills and a nurturing environment. We must listen to their voices and views and help them learn and grow while still building a healthy, safe, and gender-equal world.
By Ashwin Yardi, CEO – India, Capgemini and Advisory Board, YuWaah (Generation Unlimited India at UNICEF); and Dhuwarakha Sriram, Chief of Generation Unlimited (YuWaah), Youth Development and Partnerships at UNICEF.