Realigning youth towards hard work

Creating and sharing reels on social media is more interesting to them than academics.
Realigning youth towards hard work
GK Photo

Today’s youth grapple with various challenges that test their mental resilience. In the Holy Quran, Surah Al-Balad verse 4, it is stated, “Indeed, We created man in hardship” (Quran 90:4). This divine proclamation raises interesting questions about the role of hardships in life in modeling our youth.  The Quranic verse highlights the basic truth that hardship is an inseparable part of human existence. It reminds us that challenges and adversities are the driving force for achieving a set goal in life. Accepting this reality allows us to comprehend the purpose and value of hardships in our lives. Rather than viewing them as mere hurdles, we can see them as opportunities for growth, resilience, and self-discovery. This verse equips us to encounter difficulties with patience, determination, and faith, knowing that they serve an insightful purpose in configuring our character and nourishing our souls. Today we observe many youth wake up in the morning in late hours without any direction. They do not like to go the college and remain for most of the time glued to their mobile phones. Repeated voicing by parents and teachers is left unheeded by these youth.  Their facial expressions reflect they are drained, exhausted and in a state of mental inertia. They do not derive intrinsic pleasure in academic activities but rather waste their precious time wandering aimlessly.  The epicenter of the problem in our youth is the lack of urge to struggle. 

Recently we heard of a mass failure in 3rd semester undergraduate results and significant failing in class 11th examinations. The first reason is students do not struggle or work hard. During my recent visit to one of the prestigious colleges I found 20 to 30% students are attending classes rest were absent. I interacted with few out of college students, the chief reasons cited by them for their absence from college are (a) unemployment (b) job saturation (c) uninspiring and outdated theory based curriculum and dull pedagogical practices (d) boredom (e) fear of failure to clear huge backlog with unpredictable academic calendar (f) over stress on non-academic activities in college (g) traditional classroom setup (h) above all I found they lack will to excel and shy away from hard challenges of life.

Several parents visit my home or office to discuss academic related problems of their children in their absentia. When they call their children, they do not bother to pick the phone. Parents stand in a queue to submit the examination form of their children. Even early morning mostly elders are seen at bakers shop while youth are sleeping in their cozy rooms. Children do not carry copy, pen and other stationary items to the college classrooms. They do not show any interest in college attendance or rarely visit the library. They lack deep learning strategies and read ready-made notes. The question paper demands exhaustive study by the college students.

During visit to one of the college I checked the book borrower register of students. When I scanned through the register it reflected most of the students had not borrowed any book. Lack of mentorship and  no concern by seniors towards  youth has compounded the problem. Creating and sharing reels on social media is more interesting to them than academics. College corridors are full of students who are busy with their mobile phones, lost in the fallacies of the virtual world. The irony is we as seniors are witness to this devastation as mute spectators because it is somebody else's child.

Now to look at this problem from historical lens, K.G Saiyidain delivered a convocation address at Amar Singh College in the year 1942 on the theme “First things First” which carries a strong message for the current crop.  Addressing the students he said if you have the integrity of spirit you must learn to lead intellectually strenuous lives; you must study deeply and widely, cultivating the capacity to appreciate meanings instead of memorizing words and breaking through the rigid and narrow specialism of curricular subjects into the domain of knowledge that really illuminates. Some people feel education at the end leads to fruitless search for employment, but the argument ignores the fact under no circumstances is a stupid or culturally barren mind preferable to an intelligent and cultured mind. Our educated class has often chosen the lazy path of least resistance failing to forge new lines of activity with courage and initiative. If education could really train our minds and character properly, we should not be so helpless and hopeless as we are often inclined to be. The person who has a keen desire to bring a desirable social change in a society must have intellectual clarity, for confused thinking is as harmful as moral dishonesty; he must have courage, physical as well mental, to brave opposition, ridicule and unpopularity. He must possess idealism, he must be sensitive to the needs and sorrows of his fellowmen; above all must possess what Aldous Huxley has called the quality of “non-attachment” and Iqbal called Faqr.

To work with a sense of detachment does not require renunciation of the world but the capacity to rise above the temptations of the wealth and power. Nothing produces greater fear and timidity in man than attachment to these material objects and selfish ambitions, for the constant dread of losing them haunts him day and night. Love of money has been called “root of all evils” because it leads to all kinds of unscrupulous actions and unworthy compromises and makes it impossible for the covetous person to place first things first which is the highest and the most significant moral imperative. Once K.G Saiydain went to meet Tagore in his ashram and made the following observation in his dairy. To quote Tagore “a group of older students came to me with a complaint that large metal vessels full of food are difficult to handle, these have to be dragged, resulting in damaging their bottoms, which dirties the floor. I pointed out to them that instead of finding some solution themselves why they have come to me with a complaint. They were waiting to see that I should relieve them of their inconvenience, rather than finding the solution themselves. Why did a simple solution not come into their head that tying a piece of cotton padding under the pots would avoid friction and prevent the pot from causing holes. This incident suggests that we never learn to own responsibility and only sit back passively.”

In our schools we have to give a serious thought to this aspect of life from the very beginning, to develop the character of our students by giving them as much responsibility as possible so that they can be saved from the hateful habit of complaining. Feeling of dissatisfaction and desperation due to the lack of having plenty of material facilities indicates the weakness of character. It is good to have some lack of physical amenities, one has to get used to having fewer things, it is harmful to fulfill all the demands of the children for the sake of showing affection to them. The purpose of education from the very beginning is to think with how little we can manage our lives. In spite of our educational advantage we have not learnt to distinguish between the really good things of life and the cheap tinsel which dazzles the eyes or appeals to the appetites. And even when we do theoretically distinguish between them, our practical life remains at the inferior level. The highest function of education is to teach our students place first things first and to mould the pattern of our thought and conduct accordingly. Many of us parents do our utmost to protect our children from struggle. As a result, children are reluctant to push themselves beyond their limited physical or mental comfort zone and do even simple tasks. In the mornings. For many parents, it is a natural instinct to work towards fulfilling all their children’s desires and give them the comfort they themselves did not have. Many would have heard the story of the boy who helped the butterfly out of the cocoon by cutting it because he felt very concerned seeing the butterfly struggle. The butterfly emerges with a swollen body and shriveled wings and tries to fly but is unable to and crawls for the rest of its life. The struggle out of the cocoon was necessary to push the fluid to the wings and make the wings strong enough for it to fly. By helping the butterfly, the little boy made it dependent for life.

Dr Mark, a professor of psychology at the University at Buffalo did a study to see how low levels of adversity could impact a person’s coping skills and emotional stability as opposed to no adversity. Dr Mark’s  nine-year research suggested that subjects who were exposed to low levels of adversity, as compared to no adversity, coped with recent adverse events better and had higher life satisfaction. He concluded that adversity can help people develop a “psychological immune system” to help them cope with the slings and arrows that life throws, while those with no experience of adversity may have a hard time dealing with tough times. Many of us parents do our utmost to protect our children from struggle. As a result, children are reluctant to push themselves beyond their limited physical or mental comfort zone and do even simple tasks. Getting our children to do some work and take care of their own needs independently while studying for exams will prepare them better and help them learn prioritization , multi-tasking and value dignity of labor. I observed an ailing  grandmother called her granddaughter for a glass of water, the daughter-in –law intervened and harshly addressed the old lady by saying do not disturb Shafia (name changed) as she is preparing for examinations. In Kashmir, parents who are economically well-off often think that their children should not do housework. Part-time help is usually found even in middle-class households. Doing housework makes us down-to-earth and humble. It makes us grateful rather than entitled. These qualities go a long way in building interpersonal relationships in adulthood. We all know that we should help children find their own answers but often we end up giving it to them on a platter. During childhood my mother taught me to refer to the dictionary every time when I came across an unfamiliar word. Today’s child just looks up from his book and asks and there are at least two people willing to give an answer. And then we wonder why this generation of children takes no initiative and give up so easily. Why they feel entitled to so many things and throw tantrums when they don’t get it. We fail to realize that it is the trek up the mountain that makes us a winner versus simply arriving at the summit. We need to expose our children to struggle so that they become strong and when adversity strikes, which it will, they won’t need us to save them. Laziness is a substantial barrier in the path of success. It is a harmful state that begets many vices. Therefore, never ever allow laziness to seep into your life. An indolent person can neither do any worldly work nor any work for the hereafter. To conclude: The Holy Prophet would teach the following supplication: اَللّٰھُمَّ اِنِّیْ اَعُوْذُبِکَ مِنَ الْکَسْلِ ‘O Allah! I seek Your refuge from laziness,’ (Sahih al-Bukhari: 6371).

Dr Showkat Rashid Wani, Senior Coordinator, Directorate of Distance Education , University of Kashmir

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