Regenerating Youth Development: The Challenges for Development Communication

Article excerpt

The tide is slowly turning to how governments perceive youth development. Once considered a deficit, youth development is now being considered an asset. A deficit perspective distinguishes youth as the root cause of social ills such as drug abuse, juvenile delinquency, HIV transmissions, pre-marital sexual activity, dangerous behaviour on road, etc. On the other hand, an asset perspective perceives youth as possessing potentials that need to be realised. Youth need to be motivated and to be equipped with skills and abilities that will enable them to participate positively in the development of society and the nation on a whole. Griffin (1997) considered youth 'as the key indicator of the state of a nation, it is expected to reflect the cycle of booms and troughs in the economy, shifts in cultural values over sexuality, morality, and family life, concepts of nationhood, and occupational structures'

Youth development must be seen as an important aspect of a nation's progress. About one in every five people is youths between the ages of 15 and 24 years. It was estimated that there are about 1.2 billion youths and vast majority of them lived in less developed countries (World Population Data Sheet, 2009). United Nations World Youth Report (2007) lists issues such as work, education, health, poverty and violence as the prime concerns of youth development. Having a comprehensive and successful youth development programme will bring to fruition a generation of youth that instigates a future of vibrancy and prosperity for a nation. Unfortunately though, the state of youth development is still below par.

In 1996, more than 14 years ago, the United Nations World Programme of Action for Youth (WPAY) was launched. Although it has reaped success in some areas, there is still much to be done in others in order to translate the vision of WPAY into a total reality. WPAY enforces that 'every state should provide its young people with opportunities for obtaining education, for acquiring skills and for participating fully in all aspects of society, with a view to, inter alia, acquiring productive employment and leading self-sufficient lives'.

Youth development also needs a radical change to keep up with the times and to face the challenges of the 21st century. In addition to perceiving youth development as an asset, recognising the need of youth development to be embarked as part of community development is also pertinent. United Nations advocates that youth development is an effective strategy to achieve potentials of both youth and society (Delgado 2002).

The concept of development encompasses changing social values, informing and empowering people to change by increasing knowledge. However, by just evoking awareness and attitude change are not enough to produce the required results. Studies have proven that transformation of knowledge, awareness and attitude does not necessarily give rise to behavioural change (Rogers 2003; Singhal 2010). Efforts must be initiated to identify why individuals resist change and what are the obstacles faced for one to accept change. Thus, contemporary development efforts to reduce inequality by targeting the poorest segments of society, involving people in their own development, giving them independence from central authority, and employing "small" and "appropriate" technologies were attempted.

As in other developmental areas, communication is vital. Without communication, society will be unaware of the development targeted for them. To ensure that the area of communication deserves the rightful attention, integration with youth development is highly recommended. It must be said that development communication, unfortunately doesn't receive the recognition it deserves. Granting that input from psychologists, sociologists and community developers are instrumental to youth development, assimilating them with development communication will further ensure effectual acceptance, which in turn, will induce successful implementation of the youth development programmes. …

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