So what processes could be imagined and implemented which would give a chance to the youth to create and gain strategic knowledge about themselves, about their locality, their social, cultural, political heritage and about their own city? Professor Appadurai’s article, “Right to Research” described one such process. In this article Professor Appadurai argues that one of the rights that the disenfranchised youth “ought to claim is the right to research- to gain knowledge- as this is essential to their claims for democratic citizenship”.
This initiative builds on critical pedagogic traditions that encourage the learner to play an active role in the learning process by becoming the producer of knowledge.
By privileging the knowledge that the learner already has and using that as a central resource for producing new knowledge, this process transforms research into a pedagogical tool.
In conventional learning practices, the research is done by experts and specialists and the knowledge thus produced is learnt within a structure that treats the learner as a passive consumer of this knowledge. However, in critical pedagogic traditions, this cycle is broken by transforming the learner into the researcher.
It also privileges the economic and cultural status of the researcher, irrespective of its location. Since many learning traditions are based on systems that are intimately linked to the existing economic and cultural traditions and systems, they tend to privilege dominant locations. So upper class or caste locations get privileged and reproduced within learning systems. Critical traditions make concerted attempts to create structures that are accommodative and inclusive of all locations. To implement this however, one has to create structures that often exist outside the formal systems of learning, and they do this by questioning existing structures of learning and by seeing themselves as located within broader contexts – like the living and working spaces in which the learner occupies.
Thus, for the Youth Fellowship Project – the city itself is the structure for the learning process. The city openly reflects the hierarchies, the cultural and economic diversities of the world to which the learner/researcher belongs. It becomes the resource for the learner/researcher to build new knowledge without the intermediary of a formal structure of learning that tends to otherwise distance them from their contexts in the process of learning. In this way the learning/research process becomes an act of participating in the city’s political arrangements by producing knowledge about it.
In this process there is enormous emphasis on the principles like democratization, participation and conscientization. We would like to argue that these ideologies are very crucial during the process of attitudinal changes of the youth; especially in terms of the changes in the concept of citizenship. Since India is and will remain one of the youngest countries on the planet for next 10-15 years, it is of prime importance to take advantage of the demographic dividend and focus sharply on the development of the youth and transformation of their ideas about citizenship, both locally and globally.
Urban youth and knowledge production
In 2007, almost half of the global population is under the age of 24. Fully 85 per cent of the world’s working youth, those between the ages 15-24, live primarily in Southern Asia & Africa. While youth embody a significant proportion of human capital, 113 million are still not enrolled in school and 130 million remain illiterate.
Looking at these abysmal statistics, it becomes crucial that efforts are made to initiate processes which are inclusive of those marginalized youth and avenues are made available to them which lie outside of the formal education system; a system which is not accessible to many due to various reasons including poverty, access and need to earn livelihood.