Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Afghan Youth Debates: Investing in Young People Critical

By Mohammad Adel

Afghanistan's young people must be seen as the foundation on which a stronger, better-educated nation can be built, an IWPR debate in the southeastern Khost province has heard.

Amir Bahir, a lecturer in law and political science, argued that the country hope to move forward only if it invested in the potential of young people by giving them access to learning and improved employment opportunities.

Speaking at a debate held on June 5 at the privately-run Nur al-Basar High School, he told an audience of undergraduates that President Hamed Karzai's successor must view those aged under 25 as an absolute priority.

Currently, he said, young people lacked both the training and the incentives they would need to adequately contribute to the country's economy and help drive change.

"If the future president's only goal is to get into power and stay there, it will be a huge calamity for this nation," Bahir said. "Young people need to read up on each of the candidates' [policy] platforms and be very certain of which one it’s best to vote for.”

Yusof Entezar, a civil society activist and a political analyst, also spoke out on behalf of young people. He called on students to support the June 14 run-off and urged the new government that would follow to pay close attention to their needs.

"Young people form a big part of our society," he told the debate. "But today, many of them are involved in drugs and other illegal activities. Mafia networks abuse their vulnerability, and if we can't provide better prospects for them, we cannot build a better society."

A number of students at the event highlighted particular policy changes which they felt would better tap the potential of young people.

Nawidullah, who like many Afghans only uses one name, argued that the new president must focus on improving teaching standards. "The future president should appoint professional teachers for all schools and pay special attention to the problems of pupils," he said.

Another student, Sanaullah, insisted that rule of law must be a priority. "He [Karzai's successor] should enforce the law and ensure justice. This has been lacking over the past 13 years," he said.

Mohammad Ebrahim, a third student, urged the new leader to “arrest those who inflame ethnic and regional tensions”.

Mohammad Adel is a student at Khost University and an IWPR trainee. 

This report was produced as part of Open Minds: Speaking Up, Reaching Out – Promoting University and Youth Participation in Afghan Elections, an IWPR initiative funded by the US embassy in Kabul.