THE WORM’S EYEVIEW: Youth can enhance their own quality of life

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 6 Nov) – There’s a group in the barangay—the Katipunan ng Kabataan (KNK)—which is supposed to be the largest association of youths in every community, and therefore in our society. But it is rarely mentioned or heard from.

Every youngster, 15-to-21 years and residing in the barangay for at least six months, is supposed to join this association and be duly listed in the barangay government’s official roster as required by law (Sec 424, R.A.7160).

But it is not clear whether barangays comply with this provision. They don’t seem to bother calling on their young inhabitants to register and be officially listed.

This is an important point because it is membership in the KNK that entitles a young person to vote or to be voted upon for a position in the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) or youth council—which consists of the less-than-a-dozen officials they elect for their “board of directors.”

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That the KNK remains an obscure group after all these years (it was created by the local government code of 1991) says a lot about how remiss both the adults and the youth, official or civilian, are in complying with or in implementing the autonomy law.

This organization in fact presents one of the best arrangements for the youth in their own community, where they can apply their leadership skills and school-learned technologies—in the process, make a difference in society as well as open opportunities for livelihood or employment.

There’s money allocated for its operating and program requirements. But unfortunately, much of it is frittered away in trivial pursuits and corruption.

With good leadership and enterprising sense, KNK members can invest the money on productive programs and projects. They can enhance the quality of life of their fellow youngsters and brighten their neighborhoods with their energy and creativity.

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For instance, do the poor students need books, uniforms, a pair of shoes? There’s money to capitalize a credit union—for lending or even for grants. Many cooperatives would love to help them establish it, or help raise funds to augment their capital.

Do they need intellectual challenge? Burning issues of the day or other ideas can be discussed or debated in the community—dealing with actual problems that concern them, finding solutions or testing theories in the social laboratory that is the community.

Do they need access to technology? That can be arranged. They can even set up an internet café of their own, right in the community, and with their own capital! Are poor pupils malnourished, their learning ability impaired? A feeding program (breakfast or lunch perhaps?) would do wonders for their handicap. No such programs are being proposed by them.

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But none of these is happening. And it’s due to the ignorance not only of the youth but of their elders about the corporate nature of the barangay government, of which the Katipunan ng Kabataan is an integral part.

They also don’t seem to understand that as the basic economy of our society (having land, labor, and capital) there’s potential to develop its assets and make them work for everyone by expanding the Gross Barangay Product.

The KNK is for every youngster in the barangay. It is their individual and collective task to identify, define, or decide what to do about issues and problems that affect them. Unless they do, no one else will because the task is specifically meant for them to perform.

It’s a pity that this youth association is neglected. All the attention is on their politics—which centers on who controls the Sangguniang Kabataan and the funds that are coursed through it. Even civil society and the churches seem remiss; so there’s no one to motivate the KNK or SK but the traditional politicians (trapos) which are usually the least creative or imaginative.

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As for the school-going youth, they ought not to be overly fixated on campus activities. Their detachment from barangay affairs puts them—especially the ones with leadership potential—out of touch with community affairs and out of their depth when dealing with real-life situations.

Their intense preoccupation with campus activities lets their badly motivated counterparts corner, monopolize, or control community affairs under the guidance of trapos. It is why brilliant or outstanding campus leaders lose badly when they test the political waters after graduation.

It’s not enough to study or simulate reality, solving theoretical problems, while at school. It gives the advantage of empirical knowledge and experience to others, giving them a head-start in their trapo-guided careers.

For intellectual and emotional development, formal education should be laced with strong doses of reality and honed by actual challenges and problem-solving in community life—which the KNK can provide.

(Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific; secretary-general, Southeast Asia Publishers Association; director, Development Academy of Philippines; member, Philippine Mission to the UN; vice chair, Local Government Academy; member, Cory Government’s Peace Panel; awardee, PPI-UNICEF outstanding columnist. He is president/national convenor, Gising Barangay Movement Inc. [email protected])

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