Bahrain Students Need to Be Builders and Not Breakers of Society

Schools in Bahrain reopened on Sunday after summer vacations and it is a good time to reflect over the older students’ role and responsibilities in view of the recent events in Bahrain marked by sectarian clashes.

One is at one’s wits’ end how and why the youth, especially the ones who should be going to the institutes of higher learning, or to colleges, universities or vocational centres. They should instead be busy in such anti-society and anti-national activities as burning tyres, writing anti-regime graffiti on the walls in their neighbourhoods, depositing the contents of garbage skips in to the middle of the streets in their areas, throwing Molotov cocktails, and on occasion parading through the streets, their faces covered and shouting anti-regime slogans, sometimes sharp weapons in hand. This is certainly not the culture of education that the national system in Bahrain imparts.

Indeed one might say that Bahrain is among a handful of countries where the State takes a keen interest in the welfare and growth of students from the grassroots level. The education in lower classes is free and the cost of education is quite low for families even when their children are studying in higher classes. If a student is bright there are scholarships galore to pursue higher studies in universities abroad. And there is no discrimination on the score of class, sect or sex at any level of education, attendant facilities or scholarships.

Even after the university graduates enter the job market, they are an enviable lot. Only earlier this week the Cabinet launched a project under which Bahrain University graduates working in the private sector are to get better salaries. The two-year scheme will benefit 2,200 holders of university degrees.

What is it then that drives the youth to go to such extremes of obnoxious behaviour and indulge in anti-State activities? And why are they indulging in such acts at this time? It is quite obvious that they by themselves cannot be going about behaving in this manner since the ‘tricks’ that they play are not taught in any school. It is also quite unlikely that the elders in their families prompt them to go for such condemnable actions since no mother and no father would like their child to act in a manner which would prompt the law-enforcing agencies to chase, tackle or control them.

The answers to the two questions in the preceding para are not far to seek. The youth, being often unattached, precocious, with time on hand and full of energy and enthusiasm can be directed to indulge in either constructive or destructive acts. And the elders in the community with a nefarious political agenda of their own seem to have stepped in to exploit their energies for their ends which include taking advantage of any and every opportunity to embarrass the government and show the world that things are not quite normal in Bahrain.

This is a particularly attractive idea for them since a body of international experts is right now camping in the Kingdom, meeting people from all walks of life, to investigate the causes and consequences of the recent troubles. And also because the by-elections for nearly half the seats in Parliament are just round the corner. Adding fuel to this fire are certain clerics who tend to distort facts and persuade their listeners, youth among them, to find new means to show the regime in a bad light in front of the media and the world at large.

It is time the youth realised that unbeknown to them they are being used as a tool by certain elements in society for fulfil their own purposes which have nothing whatsoever to do with them or with the community from which they come. They have also to realize that for the democratic process in the nation to go forward the by-elections must go through peacefully and in a congenial atmosphere.

In this context it is heartening to know that some societies are harnessing the talents and energies of the youth for a positive contribution to election efforts. Thus, the Bahrain Dialogue Society is training the youth to act as volunteers at polling stations and there are other outfits that are busy educating the youth on the entire electoral system and how elections can bring about improvements in society through democratic means.

Brij Sharma is an Indian journalist and editor based in Bahrain. Brij tells us the interesting stories we don’t usually hear from the middle east country.