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Some youth who participated in the Youth Parliament lackedparliamentary decorum

Business

Motsamai Mokotjo

The need for young voices to be heard and valued has never been more crucial. Youth parliament, a platform that encourages young individuals to participate in the political process, is an invaluable institution that not only empowers the youth but also enriches our democracy. In this opinion piece, we will explore the significance of youth parliament and the positive impact it has on the future leaders of our society.

Youth parliament provides an exceptional opportunity for young people to engage actively in politics and contribute to decision-making processes. By participating in debates, proposing bills, and voicing their concerns, young individuals gain first-hand experience of how democracy functions. Such engagement at an early age nurtures a sense of responsibility, empowering them to actively contribute to their communities.

Furthermore, youth parliament offers a unique space for diverse voices to be heard. It promotes inclusivity by providing a platform for young people from all backgrounds, regardless of their social status, gender, or ethnicity. This inclusive environment fosters tolerance, understanding, and appreciation for different perspectives, which are vital traits for effective leadership in the 21st century.

Participating in youth parliament goes beyond mere engagement; it serves as a valuable tool for political education. Young individuals involved in youth parliament gain practical knowledge about the legislative process, governance, and public policy. This hands-on experience instils a deeper understanding of how society functions and equips them with the skills necessary to navigate the complexities of governance.

Youth parliament provides an environment for young people to develop their critical thinking, public speaking, and negotiation skills. Through the process of drafting bills, presenting arguments, and defending their positions, participants learn how to articulate their ideas persuasively and advocate for issues they are passionate about. These skills are invaluable not only in politics but also in various other aspects of life, including academia, career pursuits, and personal relationships.

One of the most significant outcomes of youth parliament is the cultivation of political empowerment and confidence among the youth. By allowing them to actively participate in decision-making processes, youth parliament validates their opinions and demonstrates that their voices matter. This empowerment boosts their self-confidence and encourages them to believe in their ability to effect positive change.

When young individuals feel empowered and confident in their political engagement, they become more likely to remain engaged throughout their lives. Youth parliament acts as a gateway to broader political participation, inspiring participants to continue their civic involvement beyond their youth. This sustained engagement is essential for the long-term health and vitality of any democracy.

Youth parliament serves as a breeding ground for future leaders. By allowing young individuals to practice leadership skills, collaborate with peers, and network with experienced politicians, youth parliament paves the way for the emergence of a new generation of capable and visionary leaders. Through their involvement in youth parliament, young people develop a profound understanding of the issues affecting their communities.

Last week was an opportunity where Lesotho marked Parliament Day where young people were provided with an exceptional opportunity to actively participate in a simulated parliamentary session. It aimed to encourage engagement and dialogue among the youth, fostering an understanding of parliamentary procedures and democratic processes.

However, it was quite surprising to witness the level of involvement during the event. Many of the young participants seemed to lack a basic understanding of the proper parliamentary decorum and rules of engagement. Despite the availability of established guidelines known as Standing Orders that govern parliamentary proceedings, the debates and discussions conducted by the youth were characterized by a lack of adherence to these rules. They failed to quote or reference the relevant Standing Orders, which are crucial for maintaining order and ensuring fairness in parliamentary debates.

The behaviour of the young participants mirrored that of actual Members of Parliament, both in terms of their conduct and the nature of their arguments. This imitation of MPs, without the necessary understanding of the rules and responsibilities that come with the role, is concerning. It indicates a tendency toward superficial gamesmanship rather than genuine engagement in meaningful discourse.

Such behaviour does not bode well for the future of the country. It suggests a potential disregard for the principles and values that underpin democratic governance.

“Parliament will train you to talk; and above all things to hear, with patience, unlimited quantities of foolish talk,” as Thomas Carlyle noted. 

In a functioning democracy, the exchange of ideas and opinions is essential for robust decision-making and the representation of diverse perspectives. However, it is equally important to discern and filter out the meaningful discussions from “foolish talk.”

Such conduct indicates a potential disregard for democratic principles and values, which can have detrimental effects on the future of a country. Effective communication, active listening, and the ability to distinguish meaningful dialogue from frivolous discourse are crucial for a healthy democracy and Parliament.

Cry, my beloved Kingdom!

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