Saudi society is a young one — the percentage of young people is 47.5 percent. It is, therefore, natural that the worries of the young, their problems and issues should increase in our society. We must also admit that there is a great shortcoming in our outlook with regard to the problems and that we are unable to get a feel for those troubles in a realistic and serious manner and are thus incapable of finding solutions that can address the problems.
Therefore, our question is: Where are our youth going? It would be good if the question kept us all up late at night and for it to be raised at all levels because it is the question that most vitally affects the future of our country. Our children are "the capital and interest", the pillars of the nation, its expectation, power, resolve, creative fuel and they have the greatest power of growth and giving and are the most capable of change, creativity and innovation. The young, however, if they do not find the necessary care and attention will become implements of destruction, ruin and corruption.
These sentiments I have taken from a speech by Dr. Fatima Naseef at the opening of the first educational assembly at Dar Al-Hikma College for girls. Naseef hit the nail on the head. We must ask ourselves what we are giving our youth in terms of education; for what we sow, so shall we reap. It is not wrong to think that the problems we face today are the results of that very education and it is all of our own making.
Again I quote from Naseef: "The education that our sons and daughters receive at home and in schools as well as at universities is usually undertaken on the basis of their being bystanders and not participants — reactive rather than active. We thereby destroy their creativity and steer them toward rebellion and defiance. We raise them to be negative. We teach them not to think. This is a crime against the progress of our country."
We must not be shocked at the severity and bitterness of her feelings; it is her duty to reveal the naked truth, to diagnose the illness clearly and accurately. It is also her right to demand that we listen with our undivided attention and reflect on what she says without evading the issue or making excuses.
The organizers did well to ring the warning bell. They were not satisfied with merely doing that. They made two other vital contributions. First, they prepared the information, did their research and chose the lecturers well, joining theoretical studies and workshops. This transformed the meeting from a simple conference of speeches into an exchange of ideas and experiences.
Second, the meeting concluded with specific recommendations and the establishment of a committee to follow up, apply and turn the recommendations into reality. The most important of these recommendations were:
o Establishing a center aimed at developing thinking skills which will spread the teaching of logical thought into our educational institutions.
o Establishing a center for educational and personal counseling to treat students’ behavioral problems.
o Opening art academies to meet the demands of the workplace and in accordance with Islamic traditions.
o Establishing family counseling and rehabilitation centers to prepare our youth both psychologically and socially to bear the responsibilities of marriage and family life.
o Establishing cultural and social centers aimed at filling our youths’ empty hours with something beneficial.
The problems with our sons and daughters are not because we don’t know of their suffering or don’t understand their needs. The problem is that this knowledge and understanding is too shallow and never goes beyond the theoretical to the practical.
What is important is to think seriously and work together to plan where we want our youth to go and to have a concrete idea of what we want them to become. This can only happen if we are close to them, understand their situations and help them to develop their personalities. We must begin when they are small children, developing independent thought, teaching them respect, work ethics, the skills of giving, and teaching them to aim high.
We must take real care that what we do will be "a positive and deep education using stimulating, enjoyable and advanced methods" and we must, as Naseef says, "rewrite our religious syllabuses and programs to correspond to the teachings of the Qur’an and discover ourselves in order to instill in our youth restraint that will deter them from what is evil and conduct them to what is good. Our belief is our safety."