To Transform is to Empower (International Youth Day 2019) by Aulola Ake

Transforming education is the 2019 theme for International Youth Day. It highlights efforts to make education relevant, equitable and inclusive for all youth and the efforts by youth themselves.

Education is not confined to the four walls of a classroom and has more to do with accessing knowledge than standardized learning.  I read something that has stuck with me since high school; that “education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire.” When a fire ignites, it illuminates warmth, sustenance, and guidance in the dark. In the same breath, education is the act of empowerment by learning and sharing knowledge with one another. I believe as the youth of Tonga, we have a unique opportunity to transform civic education.

Civic education in Tonga is necessary for youth to understand the political systems that govern the nation. Our culture heralds us as custodians of our beloved fonua. No matter how much our country may change, Tongan culture helps us navigate modern challenges. Many young Tongans, including myself, can attest that when they connect with fonua and culture, it elevates their understanding of this modern world. 

When youth are empowered, they become active in political environments because it drives them to seek goodwill in every form of governance. If we take away this empowerment, civic responsibility loses its value and the transformation between education and leadership is stifled.

I am proud that in this important month, Tonga Youth Leaders is initiating plans for the second Girls Takeover Parliament (GTP). Some of the 2018 alumni have volunteered to plan the agenda for GTP 2019 so that the standard of learning is raised and transformed. There is a great advantage when youth are empowered to lead a cause for themselves and how much more exciting than to see young women flame the fire together.

Girls will get to understand Tongan Parliament more this year and be emboldened by the learning that they will receive. This is also the chance for 30 young girls to access civic education in a safe and interactive manner.

It is also my joy that Tonga Youth Leaders prioritizes the need to make civic education accessible for all youth throughout the year. Our Youth in Politics sessions, television and radio programs to name a few, seeks to amplify youth voices and ensure a positive future for leadership.

When we are enlightened of the process that leads our island Kingdom, we are confident in lighting a future that we dare not fear.

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