Young citizens need civics education, its their right.


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 .


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