There is an ever increasing need and a wide support for youth engagement in all communities nowadays. Youth engagement is advocated on the conviction that youth have assets and are therefore capable of making meaningful contributions to their communities. While it is important to examine outcomes related to youth engagement, it is equally important to determine successful practices to understand how such outcomes can be achieved. Effective youth engagement requires a ceaseless investment on developing the youth to capacitate any community to achieve its short and long term goals.
Youth development is the ongoing growth process in which all youth are engaged in order to meet their basic personal and social needs to be safe, feel cared for, valued and useful. It also involves building skills and competencies that allow them to function and contribute in their daily lives. This denition accurately describes youth development as a process that all young people go through on the way to adulthood. As the denition implies, it is a process or journey that automatically involves all of the people around the youth, which basically mean family and community. A young person will not be able to build essential skills and competencies and be able to feel safe, cared for, valued and
useful unless their family and community provide them with the supports and opportunities they need along the way. Thus, youth development is also a process in which family and community must actively participate. It is only to this that efforts from government and its institutions can be added so that the end product will be the youth we all want to build and develop.
In Eritrea youth development involves people, places, supports, opportunities and services that most of us inherently understand that young people need to be healthy and successful. There are many efforts to dene the outcomes of youth development, and most express the results that we want for our youth. However, people, programs and institutions should involve in a coordinated manner in youth development toward positive results in the lives of our youth. The target and outcomes should also include but move above and beyond the academic skills and competencies which has been the focus traditionally. Some like the National Union of Eritrean Youth and students (NUEYS) have clearly dened these desired positive results or outcomes in an attempt to more effectively work toward the youth. The union has identied those outcomes to be comprehensive as to include the physical, mental, and intellectual health of our youth with the intention of securing their employability and involvement in
the civic and social affairs of the nation.
It is generally known that there are a number of factors in youths’ lives which contribute to reaching these positive developmental outcomes. And it is imperative that people, programs and institutions that work with youth or are engaged in youth development should make sure they are fullled. The rst and the foremost thing here is support: motivational, emotional and strategic supports to succeed in life. The supports can take many different forms, but they must be afrming and ongoing and should be offered by a variety of bodies, such as parents and close relatives, community social networks, teachers, peers and institutions who are involved in the lives of young people. This support can also include creating opportunities and chances for young people to learn how to act and contribute in the world around them, to explore, express, earn, belong, and inuence. Opportunities give young people the chance to test ideas and behaviors and to experiment with different roles and hence it should be treated as a priority. It is also important to stress that young people, just like adults, learn best through active participation and that learning occurs in all types of settings and situations. Hence creating the environment for them to do so is essential.
Another indispensable factor in youth development has to do
with the provision of quality services. In fact no development can be complete without services in such areas as education, health, and employment which should incorporate relevant instruction and information in our social and national priorities. These services should also create challenging opportunities for the youth to express themselves, to contribute, to take on new roles, and be part of a larger group so as to direct and merge our effort toward the aforementioned priorities. Having provided these services we must then set high standards and expectations, guidance and afermation to young people as they must know or have an idea of what is expected of them that will contribute positively to the growth of their society.
Youth development is not a highly sophisticated and complicated prescription for rearing a t youth we all aspire for the nation. Youth development is about people, programs, institutions and systems that provide youth with the supports and opportunities they need to empower themselves. For a nation like ours endowed with such a disciplined and versatile youth, this requires youth development at all levels to be vigorously and tirelessly pursued so that it will endure and become a culture. And in the end these effort toward youth development, all the supports and opportunities, could only be meaningful and have the impact
we desire as long as and only when all of our youth can be able to take advantage of it. In many societies the ultimate challenge is to make such supports and opportunities the rule rather than the exception for all youth.
The National Union of Eritrean Youth and Student (NUEYS) as a representative and agent of youth has been playing a enormous part in this huge task and has been doing a great effort in various ways. This will be to no avail however, if the task is left only to this ofce. There is no doubt that the NUEYS has been and can play a crucial role in coordinating the hard work made toward the youth but it is only the participation of the society as a whole which can have a decisive contribution whose holistic effort is the precursor of the desired outcome we aspire for our youth.