A Generation that Cheats Its Kids [Archives:1997/47/Viewpoint]

November 24 1997

If you are in any gathering and the talk touches on the young generation, the adults will immediately show their dismay. The complaints would focus on how useless the young kids are – so complacent, more keen on play than schooling, etc. If the complaints are justified, it simply means that the present generation has not done its job of raising the children well. If the complaints are not justified, then the generational ‘differences’ should not lead to such unnecessary criticism. The fact of the matter is that the present generation behaves in a selfish way. The selfishness of the adults has been causing a lot of damage to the nation. Let us take examples. 1. Look at the consumption level. Since the 1970s, the former YAR and PDRY have embarked on wrong policies and expenditures, mostly financed through foreign aid and loans. 2. Look at the environmental degradation. The agricultural terraces have fallen to ruin, the dams and cisterns are defunct, deforestation and desertification are in full force, etc. 3. Look at the water situation. Underground water reservoirs that have been built up over hundreds of years are depleted in one generation. Rivers that have been running only a decade ago are now dry. 4. Look at what is happening with qat. This poison is now so widespread that only a miracle can stop it. And why? Simply because the present generation has gone to excesses. 5. Look at the flight of capital. For a capital-scarce country, the present generation has looted the nation simply to ensure its own personal well-being. Most of the senior people in charge of the country today have fat bank accounts abroad, even as the nation suffers from hard currency problems.
I can go on and on. What I am saying is that the present generation has no right to complain or criticize the young people. Having said that, let me say that I am dead worried about how well we qualify our children to interact positively with the rest of the world. It is crucial that we raise children who will feel comfortable in interacting with the world, and who will have a good chance in doing well in the future. That is not happening, given the kind of culture and education we give our kids.
A few weeks ago, I spent a couple of hours between flights at Hong Kong airport. While lounging, I witnessed a group of 3-5 year old children, most probably from some kindergarten, who were flying out on a picnic. There were seven or eight groups, each group, wearing a different color cap, numbering around thirty kids. For the 20 minutes or so they were standing in front of me, I was extremely impressed by their discipline. They were standing calmly in straight lines; they were holding on to their boarding cards and other documents; they were quiet; and they were giving their teachers/guides full attention. For a split of a minute I began to imagine, “What if these were Yemeni kids.” The picture would be different. Their mothers and fathers would be all around, because they do not trust their kids or their teachers. The kids would be fighting among themselves like hell. Many would be crying and making a lot of noise. Others would wander off in different directions. Some would probably throw or break a few airport things. Still others would lose their boarding cards and other documents. In short, just imagine the level of self-discipline and responsibility displayed by the Chinese kids. In twenty years, these kids would compete with ours. Are we ready?

By: Pro. Abdulaziz Al-Saqqaf Editor-in-Chief and Publisher