SUMMER Programs for Our Children [Archives:1998/22/Viewpoint]

June 1 1998

It is summer time again, and our kids have no where to go. Most of the world undertakes special efforts to arrange diverse programs involving physical exercises, educational efforts, and recreational activities. Government offices, private enterprises, and community organizations come together to keep the children and teenagers busy.
Unfortunately, here in Yemen, there are few options. The Ministry of Education has no summer programs. The Ministery of Youth and Sports has very limited activities. Other government insitutions have nothing worth mentioning.
The private sector has few ideas or projects. There are a few recreational and cultural facilities, but these are limited to the large cities.
Community-based activities are also limited. There are a few sports clubs, literature centers, etc. But again, the numbers and attractions are limited.
The point is that more than 50% of our 18 million population is less than 18 years old. What will this large number of youngsters do over the next three months? Society has not done much to keep them busy.
It is important that a national plan of action be developed to help provide for the summer needs of half of the population. It is not a matter of resources, it is a matter of vision, desire to do something and commitment. Sometimes, all it takes is a plain field with a coach to keep a couple of dozen kids busy. But there is need for the ideas and commitment.
Somehow, the decision-making process of Yemen today is fixated on pressure groups. If one individual can bring pressure to bear, his ‘needs’ are easily provided for. The 50% of the population that the kids represent do not have a lobby or pressure group. It would be assumed that the senior officials would have the interest of the nation at heart, and thus work to meet the needs of the children. Unfortunately for Yemen, they do not.
As a result, kids stray. Some of them fall victims to bad habits and influence. We see this most conspicuously in the cities where teenagers run into trouble. We see children who are forced into working or begging or whatever, all of which is illegal at their tender age.
Parents and family elders are not providing good role models, either. Many adults spend their time chewing qat and watching satellite TV programs that represent the lowest common denominator. The children’s recreational needs are mostly neglected, leaving them to wander off into the streets and mix with bad company.
Efforts to keep our children fruitfully busy during the summer vacation must start at home, and be taken up by the relevant authorities.
Prof. Dr. Abdulaziz AL-SAQQAF
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher