At the Heart of Youth!
There are two views on the Mauritian youth. The first compares two epochs: 1969 -75 and today. Without appreciating the history of these last 50 years – the advances, the setbacks and regressions, as well as the profound transformations and mutations that the country has known, this view is lacking. It is not right. The second reduces youth to its presence on social networks, especially through selfies, their “cult of personality”, the ephemeral; for those that ascribe to that vision young people today are not concerned by society and its problems, let alone politics. What if the reality of youth was different entirely? What if we did not assume, criticize, and blame but rather try to understand?
The UN defines youth, or the young, as people between 15 and 24 years old. However, this definition varies. In Mauritius, official data indicates that, in 2017, the number of young people between 15 and 29 amounted to 290 000, meanwhile the number of people admitted to secondary schools amounted to 110 500. With those numbers in mind to give us a rough idea of the size of the group we are dealing with, let’s first dive into a key component of this segment of the population: their digital ecosystem.
We can no longer think of the future of youth without an understanding of the digital ecosystem and the dynamics that drive it. Being a teenager is difficult enough, but the pressures young people face online are probably unique to this generation. The results conducted on the impact of technology on the mental health of young people are concerning. Our challenge is to develop a positive use of the internet.
The place of digital technology in the daily life of youth and the general population will grow. Young people who have access to it are unable to live a day without internet. While social media permeates almost every aspect of the general public's life, we are only beginning to take stock of its impact on our lives. The use of social media by adolescents evolves every day. Social media has become a space in which we form and build relationships, shape self-identity, express ourselves, and learn about the world around us. However, these platforms can harm relationships, and lead to less significant human interactions. Millennials (16-30 years) who have a smartphone, spend an average of 3.2 hours per day glued to their screens (Kantar TNS global report).
In Mauritius, out of a sample of 600,000 to 700,000 Mauritian Facebook users, there are more men - 54% - than women. By age group (men and women combined), users aged between 25 and 34 are the largest user group (source: Panda & Wolf Advertising Agency Mauritius).
Young people have in common the transition from adolescence to adulthood, a period that varies from one society to another. It is the age of discovery of the world made of encounters and common spaces that include groups, communities and platforms on the web. The youth ecosystem has become globalized with the invasion of mass culture. The following reflection by Cécile Strouk is salient: The development of mass culture has led to the erosion of autonomous forms of popular culture and the dissolution of social ties in favor of an artificial world of isolated individuals, the foundation of the consumer society. This standardization of behaviors and aspirations is presented as the liberation of all constraints (social, spatial, temporal, etc.)”. Overwhelmed and triumphant, mass culture (American series, new technologies, football, video games, etc.) finds its defenders even among dissenting intellectuals. With the question of how "our civilization of leisure participates in the domestication of peoples.” (Strouk, 2010)
Young people have the right to an education system that provides them with a minimum: an economic activity based on know-how, income that allows for a decent quality of life and hope for the future, a decent standard of living. Our youth is a heterogeneous population that reflects the social structures of our society with its inequalities and discriminations. Including a strong “gender divide” cutting across the entire demographic. There are some who are (and will be) in the labor market as school system rejects.
Others will continue the school curriculum until the end of secondary school and among them, a group will do tertiary studies, either in Mauritius or abroad. The country is currently suffering from the problem of unemployed graduates. We need to update the mismatch happening for job-seekers by integrating trends and potentials that need to be identified quickly.
Values and future prospects
The MORISCOPIE study, published by Transparency Mauritius in September 2013, highlights interesting facts about young people's behavior and their perception of the future. First, it disconnects young people from the local reality. Only 19% regularly follow the news and 58% express a disinterest in politics. This study highlights that only 7% of young Mauritians feel close to a political party, and 15% have asked for political support to get a job. Between 33% and 37% of young people are willing to work for a political party against a promise of employment or professional advantage. Most of the youth who participated in the survey favor transparency in party funding.
52% of young people surveyed believe that the main cause of hiring difficulties is the absence of political backing. Only 27% think they have a future in Mauritius. Job seekers aged 25-29 are the most pessimistic, with 30% believing they have no future. In all, 72.7% of young people show a certain pessimism about their future. Mauritian youth is currently living a paradoxical situation. On the one hand, it deplores the harmful effects of corruption in politics, and on the other, it keeps away from the political stakes that could allow it to transform the situation.
In an article published in the Mauritius Times in March 2018, the lecturer at the University of Mauritius, Vina Ballgobin argues that young people live well their ethnic identity in a multicultural context and deplores the lack of civic education. For a very large majority (89%) according to the survey conducted, Mauritius is a country where life is good because there is a culture of tolerance and peace. Youth concerns include levels of corruption, lack of meritocracy, discrimination, racism and communalism; we can see the extent, she writes, in the crisis of confidence in the institutions. And still according to this article, 77% of young people are willing to emigrate for various reasons - personal well-being, economic benefits and opportunities.
There is therefore an urgent need to clean up the global environment, with its institutions and public / private enterprises / bodies.
Politics and society
The rejuvenation and renewal of the political class and leaders at the head of companies and institutions is part of the plan to move forward. Most traditional parties, including dissidents, have a dedicated “young” group. Others, more or less new, led by young people, want to put youth at the center of their political approach to say no to "dinosaurs". The younger scene does not identify with the spectacle of politicians who often have incestuous links with the world of finance and of drug mafias, creating an environment rife with corruption.
Politics is also undergoing profound change. It is a question of rethinking its place, its role, its forms and structures, and at the same time its relations with the civil society in the search for a democracy to invent. From now on, the digital ecosystem will articulate the real and the virtual, including in the political space. Digital space is changing social relations because of the principle of horizontality gradually taking over the verticality. This is a profound transformation where young people will find their place to play a role in the midst of the necessary reinvention of politics.
In Mauritius, hundreds, if not thousands, of young people who possess that special kind of emotional intelligence find time and energy to engage diligently because they are concerned about what is happening in our society. They are working on several problematic aspects of modern Mauritian society: the fight against poverty, the scourges of drugs, abuse, they help with the florescence of artistic creativity, as well as the awareness and protection of the environment, to mention only those topics.
These are the policies we need geared toward our youth:
The state of employment, or rather unemployment, for young people is worrying; in fact, the unemployment rate for 16 to 24 year olds is 24.9%. The latest budget provides Rs 1 billion for a training policy targeting 14,000 young people including 3,000 under the National Skills for Development Program focused on soft skills, another 3,000 under the National Apprenticeship Program, 3,500 under the Youth Employment Program (YEP) and 1000 under the SME Employment Scheme. Let's ensure that the actual targets are effective, as opinions differ on their actual impact and, according to some, only serve to lower the unemployment figures.
Young people who are excluded and left out of the school system require special attention in terms of support to develop non-academic talents in the arts and sports for example. Examples abound in many areas; the potential is real. All we need to do is open our eyes and ears!
The 2014 report, Determinants of Youth Behavior, created by the Ministry of Youth and Sports, tells us that between 23 and 30% of young people have used drugs: marijuana (23.8%), hard drugs (between 23% and 35%). Today, what is called "synthetic" is wreaking havoc among young people; many from the age of 15, and some even as young as 13 years have dabbled in the use of synthetic drugs. This scourge affects all youth. Common sense and a little intelligence are an urgency to make the necessary distinctions regarding the dangerousness of different drugs. There are countries that have succeeded in their drug policies, we must be inspired by them and not have their minds stuck in reactionary thought.
Sport, leisure, and lifestyle
A healthy quality of life is one of the solutions to fight scourges like drugs. Hence the need for a revisited sports and leisure policy. There is a need to provide the country with local and regional recreation areas as part of regional planning. Develop smart places to promote usability for both virtual and real communities. Not only sports complexes but also places of discovery, sharing, and of artistic and cultural creation.
Young people and the web
The digital ecosystem in which young people evolve is a strategic field. Let's invest in it to become aware of its scope, its threats and dangers but also its positive potentials and possibilities. New technologies and their wonders can open the field of possibilities for all our young people.
To hell with the discourse that makes our young people feel like lunatics. What if it were those who perpetuate this discourse who are the real lunatics of the present and future society? The challenge is to trust young people in the beautiful initiatives they spearhead that we need to support and nurture so that they may become elites of the heart, set to achieve Mauritian dream.
Strouk, C. (2010). Strouk, C. (2010). Divertir pour dominer. Montreuil: Éd. L'échappée.
- Malenn Oodiah