Where Student Leadership meets Nation Building

"Show me the heroes that the youth of your country look up to, and I will tell you the future of your country." - Idowu Koyenikan. A frequent inquiry among secondary school students is that which concerns the correlation between their role as leaders and nation building. Many have sought answers through hypothetical discourse or, at times, through experiential assumptions, but few have been able to put a means to this end. The basis of my inquiry, however, stands not as a search for the definitive and conclusive, rather, as a continual stream of learning which sheds light on the subject as time progresses.

In order for us to approach this subject with authority, we must first outline the facts of the matter. A survey conducted by the Secretariat of the Jamaica Prefects' Association in 2019 showed that 45% of Head Students felt confident within their role. In that same survey, it was found that just under half of the student leaders who were interviewed believed that they had little contribution to make towards nation building. Ladies and gentlemen, to put this into perspective: Up to that point in time, more than half of our student leaders lacked confidence in their respective roles (for the sake of this discussion, I refer to Head Prefects), and There is little that is known about nation building among student leaders, myself included.

One may be tempted to dismiss such claims, with the argument that there is considerable distance between a student's lack of confidence and his/her potential to contribute to nation building. But, if you are so inclined to believe, I will suggest that the two are very much related.

Confidence and our environment

"With realization of one's own potential and self-confidence in one's ability, one can build a better world." - Dalai Lama

Our level of confidence, or the lack thereof, often determines how we function. Now, more than ever, we live in a world where we, as students, are subjected to constant negative peer pressure. And this phenomenon is considerably induced by countless social and environmental factors. Statisticshave shown that 25%ofyouth aged 10–19 years report to the accident and emergency room for intentional injuries, with males being represented in 50%ofthe cases (Planning Instituteof Jamaica, 2011. Economic &socialsurveyJamaica 2010. Kingston: Planning Instituteof Jamaica). I am not merely suggesting that self-mutilation is the only result of negative peer pressure among our youth, but, certainly it brings light to the fact that there are serious consequences for the latter, one of which is recurrent attempts on our own lives.

The statistics are clear, there are so many reasons why students, in general, may be distracted from fulfilling their true potential. There are so many detractors to their self-development...so many attacks on their self-confidence. While it is not my intention to suggest that we are complete victims of this situation, I am certain you would join me in at least admitting that there is some truth to the former statement. There is truth to the claim that our environment, and our experiences within that environment weigh heavily on how we think and operate, and from time to time, may affect how confident we are in ourselves.

Student Leaders and Nation Building

According to economictimes.com, "the three pillars — government, civil society andbusiness— must work together to sustain the process ofbuildinganation." My focus, however, resides in one of those pillars, civil society, specifically, student leaders within secondary schools.

It is not an overly common occurrence to see our students engaged in discussions surrounding nation building. Certainly, those of us who engage in same usually say something along the lines of, "the problem is x, and the problem is y," most typically void of a personal solution, or any for that matter. That, ladies and gentlemen, as bad as it may sound, may very well be little to no fault of ours. Why? Because while we may form these opinions based on experiential learning and observation of those things we see happening around us, there is often not enough guidance, direction and discussion surrounding nation building within the most influential facets of our lives. Within these deep influences very often resides conversations of personal advancement, and destruction of our fellow man - a complete opposite to what the process of nation building requires.

The infusion of humanitarian principles: altruism, volunteerism and selflessness, is necessary for the establishment of a foundational understanding of nation building among our youth. As I would dare say that it is through helping others that we receive the greatest help for ourselves. It is through random acts of kindness to others that we achieve the greatest self-fulfillment. It is through this process of altruism and humanitarianism that we slowly but definitely build our communities and our schools. When that occurs simultaneously and spontaneously within our society, it is at that point when we will begin to not only understand nation building as young people, but appreciate its true value.

Let us calibrate our focus on the spirit of giving, and in so doing, join the efforts of nation building.

To Young People, God Bless.

-- Shaquille Johnson



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