For quiet a long time, the law in our countries have been known to protect the rich and the powerful. In a scenario like this, it’s really difficult to talk about equality and justice as the law stiffles the poor while safeguarding the affluent.
It is from this background that the general populace now need to understand that Young people are not citizens in the making, neither are they leaders of tomorrow . This misconception if not addressed will continue to stifle young people’s desire to meaningful participate in politics, law and other issues that does matter to them .
Civics education is the study of what it means to be a citizen in a particular country, it covers a wide range of issues from law to governance and being knowledgeable in civics education gives one lobbying power.
As a young citizen of Zimbabwe I would like to believe that there is very little civics education going on in my country as evidenced by fear associated with discussing about the government , the term civics is definitely new to many citizens of my age. I will therefore share my views in this blog on why civics education is important to young citizens.
To begin with, I believe in knowledge simply because it is power . If you are not knowledgeable, you cannot be in a better position to stand and defend your rights , getting others to support you also becomes difficult.
Civics education however equips young people with knowledge about their modern day politics and how to influence government as a citizen , It also teaches young people how their participation is important and most importantly educates them about their political rights.
As I have mentioned earlier that , young people are not citizens in the making neither are they leaders of tomorrow, because they are here today means they are part and parcel of everything happening now, they are not exceptional . This means they have the right to know what’s going on and how is it going to affect them. Those who meet the requirements needed to vote, need to understand why their vote is important and how their future will be affected if they decide not to . Young people can only get to know about all these issues through civics education, hence its importance .
I was tempted to write about this topic, I really was . This year’s United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) was held under the theme ” The Sustainable Development Goals: A Universal Push to Transform our World”. The theme itself is a driving factor in making member states commit to the agreements made.
However it’s been a year now since Sustainable Development Goals were adopted, but very few young people understand or have heard about them. This is making me afraid that if young people are not meaningfully engaged in making SDGs a success through educating them about what SDGs are and why their country prioritized certain goals leaving others out, or making sure that their issues are being addressed in these SDGs , my generation surely will be doomed as failures .
After fifteen years most of the people who are advocating now will no longer be young people and sad enough many of the leaders who have helped put up structures that does little in encouraging young people’s participation in matters that affect them will be dead, hence in the absence of open door policies that accomodate young citizens , civics education for now stands as the only powerful tool in making the younger generation conscious about their political rights, so they can be able to rightfully demand their space without fear or doubt.
Furthermore, a research conducted by Dr James Arvanitakis et al titled ” Putting the political back into politics :young people and democracy in Australia” noted that young people see a lack of genuine opportunities in formal politics which they feel is dominated by an ‘old guard’ . It is also highlighted that many of the opportunities are seen through consultative committees that exist to fulfil formal obligation and policies, rather than providing any real prospect to influence political decision-making or structures. Therefore making sure young people have access to civics education helps them to be fully aware of the political systems that are there so they can meaningfully engage , and stay abreast with the status quo and equips them with knowledge on how to exhaust all the available channels to penetrate and influence their decisions .
If young people are to wait for consultative committees or side events to push their agendas,the strategy is not going to work as all these are tokenistic and highly controlled, as an aftermath young people’s opinions have no influence and sad enough won’t do much to change agendas.
Moreso, I believe that when we are no longer able to change a situation, we are rather challenged to change ourselves, but how?
Margaret Stimmann Branson an Associate Director centre for civic education highlighted that ” democracies are sustained by citizens who have a requisite knowledge, skills and disposition. She also pointed out that in the absence of a reasoned commitment on the part of its citizens to the fundamental values and principles of democracy, a free and open society cannot succeed. “. I guess this has answered how we as young citizens ought to challenge ourselves to change. Civics education is the only way we can use to influence, carry out checks and balances on on our governments from an informed point of view because it is impossible to engage or comment on something you have little or no knowledge about.
Furthermore, Fidel Castro the Cuban president known to many both as a dictator and an icon for certain reasons once noted that ” give me a child and he will be a communist for life”. This stresses out the importance of educating someone from a very younger age, they grasp the concepts easily and won’t depart easily from them.
Likewise, civics education helps instill positive values and habits amongst young citizens so that they will be able to hold their governments accountable, and being responsible citizens too who take note of their political situations.
I would love to see a generation that is knowledgeable about their government and won’t be deterred by rigid structures that usually repel young people from actively engaging and influencing their government .