There are several things in this world that we as teenagers learn about. Several issues we are exposed to and are pushed to tackle or deal with mentally. The best way to deal with or to learn how to overcome these issues, we are told, is through seeking the wisdom of our elders. Through seeking parental guidance right? So then why is it that certain issues are simply too ‘tough for young people to learn about’? Why is it that the reality we live in where we see the big issues every day of our young, curious lives such as rape and gender-based violence, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, transphobia, to name a few, this show we all live in called life which is rated PG across the board, made to be hidden away from our youth, especially the pre-teens?
Not too long ago our school had an assembly where we were addressed as a school by a group of young women about the issues surrounding gender-based violence and gender inequality where a quite unfortunate restriction was made. Grade 8s and 9s were not allowed to attend that very assembly and why? Because they were too “immature” to attend. They were too “immature” to learn not to take serious issues as a joke or as something non-existent, they were too “immature” to learn about what many teenagers their age, even many children younger than them, go through. They were instead given a talk by the teachers on the same topic in a separate venue.
What young adolescent human being finds a lecture from a bunch of teachers more impactful than real stories told by people much closer to their age?
Young people should not be told they’re ‘too young’ to know about these real and concerning issues when these very things happen to children far younger than they are. If anything everyone is too young to be knowing or experiencing any of these issues.
I also feel as if the intellectual and empathetic minds of young teenagers are underestimated. I have heard many of the discussions some groups of 14 to 15 year-olds have had on the break field, in the dining hall, in the common rooms and even while eavesdropping on our conversations about these major topics in our groups near the tuck-shop, talking about the severity of GBV in South Africa, the remnants left behind after the closing of the dark chapter South Africa faced 26 years ago and how it still affects our people today, issues around the descrimination towards the LGBTQ+ community and many more eye-opening conversations.
Ultimately the young teens are the future of our youth committees, our Heads of Schools, Student Affairs prefects and ultimately, as we are considered the future of our society, they are equally the building block of our progression towards peace.
If anything parents should be setting the example for their kids, parents should be the first ones who never display even the most subliminal forms of descrimination, we and every other human being are way too young to be exposed to descrimination.
To the youth of this country and of the world, long-term change is far more effective than short-term change and the way to achieve this is by instilling the virtuous qualities we want society to possess into the people who look up to us. Nobody is too young to learn how to be a good person.