Scouting young talent

I am astounded to note talent in local youth is not rare. Almost always though, they are unappreciated, unemployed

Naween A Mangi July 31, 2015
The writer is a journalist and founder of Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust

I often hear the complaint that it’s incredibly difficult to find skilled labour. This is usually accompanied with the lament that people, especially those in Sindh, are also lazy and unwilling workers. While working in rural development near Larkana, under the umbrella of the Ali Hasan Mangi Memorial Trust, I have been astounded to note that talent in the local youth is not rare to come across. Almost always though, they remain undiscovered, unappreciated and unemployed.

Let me share a few examples from recent days. I had a long conversation with a 30-year-old impoverished technician, who is a self-taught mason and carpenter. During the day, he works on someone else’s farmland to earn a share of the grain. At night, he deftly repairs broken chairs and doors for villagers and friends. When he built his own house, he gathered mud and then industriously made, by hand, bricks that he had dried in the sun. He completed the construction singlehandedly, doing everything — from transporting the bricks, to building the walls and preparing the mud plaster. Doesn’t sound at all lazy to me. He says he loves working and is always restless to get work; he’s heartbroken when he has to say no to one of his children asking for a new pair of sandals because he doesn’t have the couple of hundred rupees it would cost him to buy them. If he had a wood-cutting machine, he could expand his work and further develop both his skills and his income-generating capacity. A thoughtful and tireless young man.

Likewise, I have had a chat on a few different occasions with a 31-year-old religious scholar and also had the opportunity to listen to his sermons. I was astonished to see how deep his knowledge, how magnetic his delivery and how progressive his views were. Moreover, he’s always open to questions which he took great effort to answer in depth. Just what our society needs: a young religious scholar with genuine knowledge, the power to deliver his message and the ability to guide people in a socially positive direction. He’s from a very poor family and often doesn’t have the money to travel from village to city, to visit a bookshop or attend a lecture. Over the years, he has managed to collect several dozen books which, due to the lack of space at his crowded family home, he keeps in a stack in one corner. He has a wish list of 100 books and if he had a small library at home where he could study them and read and write, he would improve his own skills. Furthermore, if he is invited to deliver religious sermons on television or at various venues in the country, he would be able to earn a living. A deep-thinking and patient young man.

There’s also a 27-year-old man who knows mobile phones inside and out, and can open them up, repair them and put them back together. This, he learned with experimentation and suggestions from other friends in the field. He struggled to put up a small shop in his hometown, offering his services. I had a hard time believing, he repaired my phone for a few hundred rupees while the company’s service shop had asked for Rs10,000; equivalent to the cost of the phone. Smart, energetic and ambitious.

And then, I met a 28-year-old artist, who makes animals out of clay. In minutes, he fashions elephants, horses, camels and buffalo out of the mud he collects and moistens. Once they dry in the sun, he gives them a coat of paint. The lovely sculptures are a pleasure to behold. Since he couldn’t make much selling these in his rural areas, he gave up the work and became a scavenger instead, collecting, sorting and selling trash to earn a living.

These are just a few examples of people I personally met. Villages and towns across Sindh are brimming with unexplored talent. How can these young people be facilitated and promoted so as to prevent them from being discouraged and jaded and instead be made productive and positive members of their community?

First, community-level organisations working in any area of development should keep an eye out for local talent and highlight any discoveries they make. Then, either the government, non-governmental organisations or well-meaning citizens could provide them with the basic equipment or the environment they need to improve their skills, since most of them have received either little or no formal training.

Once they have received these facilities, they need to be promoted. The media should move beyond inviting the same handful of faces on TV and instead, work with communities to discover and promote local talent. This will get them more business and help lift them out of poverty. Furthermore, industry should use their corporate social responsibility wings to both fund and facilitate these young people. Relevant businesses may give them contracts to carry out work, hire them for assignments, or sponsor their independent efforts.

After these talented youngsters are armed with the facilities, promoted and given the opportunity to progress and therefore earn a living, they will be in a position to give back to their communities. They can then return to the community-level organisations and work with them to dispense their skills to a new generation and become a gateway for them to improve their lives as well.

It’s easy to sit in influential positions of wealth and power, and complain about the lack of skilled and hardworking resources. Until all segments of society take responsibility to share the burden of discovering local talent, cultivating it and promoting it, these empty and meaningless objections will do little to improve our work and lives.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 1st,  2015.

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Hilal | 6 years ago | Reply The point is very much valid. Sindh is a place of resources, but the problem is lack of awareness. Community efforts can play a vital role in upbringing the society. Inspired by your trust and I hope to visit there sometime in my leisure.
ertur | 6 years ago | Reply nice article! i like it!
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