» Archive for category: ‘4218 – Child & Youth Studies in Development Context

IMG_3816 - Version 2Guest post by Tamara Megaw, a current student in the ISS Child & Youth Studies in Development Context course and a Social Policy for Development major, responding to a visit to Porta Futuro employment project as part of the recent study trip to Rome, Italy 

On 13 February 2015, ISS Social Policy for Development students attended a panel discussion with the local government of Lazio at Porta Futuro. Porta Futuro is an employment centre offering career counseling and vocational training to young job seekers and labour recruitment services to employers. This centre boasts a new model of client-driven service provision with the goal that “every person can thrive based on their merit” (Porta Futuro, 2015). They claimed that surveying clients, designing key performance indicators to measure improvement, professionalising services and building public-private partnerships helped them deliver services with maximum value-add for clients. This new management approach may have been adopted for pragmatic reasons in a climate of austerity where public services are being pruned back. However it can be criticised for not addressing the causes of youth unemployment related to the economic and political structures (White, 2012, p.11).

The local government of Lazio also discussed the ‘Garanzia Giovani’ (Youth Guarantee) European plan to support active policies of orientation, education, training and job placement for young people who are categorised ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training’ (NEET). The government guarantees Italian young people between 15 and 29 years valid work, further education, apprenticeship or internship within four months after becoming unemployed or exiting from the formal education system (Garanzia Giovani, 2015).

Conventional Italian policies to address unemployment issues were investing more money in the economy to boost employment and passive social policies such as redundancies. The economist on the panel challenged the assumption that people will find jobs once the economy has recovered, arguing that we are facing a long recession and new type of persistent labour insecurity. The 150 billion euros needed for the type of counter-cyclical push required to ‘fix’ the economy is not available from the EU, so the Youth Guarantee is proposed as an alternative solution (Porta Futuro, 2015).

There are 400,000 NEET registered just in the Lazio region and the weakness of the policy is that the number of salaried positions is far from capable of meeting the labour supply. The ILO Report on the Youth Employment Crisis indicates deterioration in the time it takes to obtain a first job, duration of transition to a “standard” job after school or their first job and proportion of young NEET to adult unemployment rate (2012, p.17). The Youth Guarantee’s inadequate response to these problems is to provide training for young people in marketable skills while waiting for a job. This may contribute to the phenomena of “educated unemployment” (Jeffrey, 2009) that marginalises youth. The plan also promotes entrepreneurship through training young people in how to develop their own business projects. This shifts emphasis away from genuine employment generation to forcing young people “to improvise their own survival strategies” (White, 2012, p.11).

The financial crisis from 2007 in Europe has disproportionately affected young people. For example, older generations caused the Greek debt problem but the younger generation must take responsibility for repayment, while being excluded from the type of social security older people enjoyed. This generational imbalance discussed by the panel resonates as a familiar narrative in many countries with a declining welfare state. As stated by ILO “what is needed is a policy framework in which the extension of social protection reduces vulnerabilities and inequalities and improves productivity” (2012, p.28). Youth unemployment will become a growing trend if no policy measures are taken.


Garanzia Giovani (2015), ‘Un impresa per il tuo futuro’, Accessed 11 March 2015, http://www.garanziagiovani.gov.it/.

International Labour Office (ILO) (2012), The Youth Unemployment Crisis: Time for Action, International Labour Office, Geneva, Accessed 5 March 2015, http://www.ilo.org/ilc/ILCSessions/101stSession/reports/reports-submitted/WCMS_175421/lang–en/index.htm.

Jeffrey, Craig (2009), ‘Fixing Futures: Educated Unemployment through a North Indian Lens’, Comparative Studies in Society and History, 51:1, pp. 182–211.

Porta Futuro Panel Discussion with the local government of Lazio on ‘Garanzia Giovani’, 13 February 2015, Rome.

White, Ben (2012), ‘Agriculture and the Generation Problem: Rural Youth, Employment and the Future of Farming’, IDS Bulletin, 43:6, Oxford.


Guest post by Mahardhika S. Sadjad, a current student in the ISS Child & Youth Studies in Development Context course984074_10152761489194989_7116096001312945834_n

On 17 February 2015, three young British girls were caught on CCTV boarding a plane to Istanbul on their way to Syria to become ISIS brides. Shamima Begum, 15, Kadiza Sultana, 16, and Amira Abase, 15, are all UK citizens – two of which were born and raised in the UK.

The girls’ seemingly voluntary departure to join ISIS triggered public outcry. While recruitment of young European men into ISIS was increasingly being covered by the media, until then, little attention was given towards the role of young women in ISIS. How could three young, bright girls with a Western education and upbringing even contemplate joining an Islamist group known to oppress and harm women? The media could not figure out whether to paint them as terrorists or victims, oppressed girls or women with agency; brainwashed young Muslims or bright, educated criminal masterminds.

Photo_The Guardian

Photo from The Guardian newspaper

Quoted in the Telegraph.co.uk, Scotland Yard stated that the search for these teenagers was not about ‘criminalising people, it is about preventing tragedies by offering support to the young and vulnerable’ (Evans, 2015). Nosheen Iqbal (2015) expressed a similar opinion in response to headlines that condemned the young women: ‘Being sharp and clever in class doesn’t make them any less impressionable as children… At their age, extremism and nihilism can easily take root, because real life hasn’t really happened to them yet’. These views echo the paradoxical views that society associate with youth, as ‘… terrors of the present, the errors of the past, the prospect of a future… they are figures of a popular imagination far removed from more nuanced social realities’ (Comaroff and Comaroff 2005, 20). Glaringly absent from the discussion were the voices of young people and their views of the subject.

The debate between demonizing and victimizing the young women does little to shed light on the role of ethnicity, gender, age, and social structure that influenced their decisions. Bayat and Herrera (2010, 5) point out that according to Gallup World Poll there isn’t a difference of unemployment rates and education levels between the politically radical and moderate. What sets Muslim youth apart – especially after the tragedies of 11 September 2001 – is a generational consciousness as young Muslims who thrive to construct their identities and individuality within a society that constantly scrutinizes who they are based on what they believe in or who they associate with (Ibid. 10-11). In a social reality where Islam is portrayed as the anti-thesis of ‘the West’, Muslim youth find sources of resistance through everyday religious practices to challenge Western norms where youth are expected to celebrate liberty (Amir-Moazami 2010, 192-193). These expressions differ widely among Muslim youth and must also be understood as a gendered process. One might argue that the most extreme form of these expressions are displayed by the likes of Begum, Sultana, and Abase, who left UK to become ISIS brides.

This blog post is not meant to support ISIS in any way or justify the actions of young people who join ISIS. Instead, I am arguing for the need to go beyond the dichotomized discourse that pushes young people to make ‘either/or’ decisions in constructing their identities, causing them to become more vulnerable to extremism. This binary only works in support of ISIS’ propaganda pitting Islamic fundamentalism against ‘Western imperialism’; attracting Muslim youth in western societies who often feel the injustices faced by minority groups but are too marginalized from meaningful forms of expression. Trying to understand why young people would opt to live in a world of violence and oppression requires us to better understand their views about the realities that they leave behind when they board a plane, departing from Europe.

Reference List

Amir-Moazami, S. (2010), ‘Avoiding “Youthfulness?”: Young Muslims Negotiating Gender and Citizenship in France and Germany, in A. Bayat and L.A. Herrera (eds.) Being Young and Muslim: New Cultural Politics in the Global South and North. Oxford [etc.]: Oxford University Press.

Bayat, A. and L. Herrera (2010) ‘Introduction: Being Young and Muslim in Neoliberal Times’ in A. Bayat and L. Herrera (eds.) Being Young and Muslim: New Cultural Politics in the Global South and North. Oxford [etc.]: Oxford University Press.

Comaroff, J. and J. Comaroff (2005), ‘Reflections on Youth: From the Past to the Postcolony’ in A. Honwana and F. De Boeck (eds.) Makers and Breakers: Children and Youth in Postcolonial Africa, Trenton, NJ: Africa World Press, p. 19-30.

Evands, M., 20.02.2015 –last update, “Three missing London schoolgirls ‘travelling to Syria to join Isil’ [Online]. Available: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/crime/11424884/Three-missing-British-schoolgirls-travel-to-Syria.html Accessed: 15.03.2015]

Iqbal, N., 24.02.2015 – last update, ‘The Syria-bound schoolgirls aren’t jihadi devil-women, they’re vulnerable children’ [Online] Available: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/feb/24/syria-bound-schoolgirls-arent-jihadi-devil-women-theyre-vulnerable-children?CMP=fb_gu Accessed: 15.03.2015]

Guest post from Megan Baker, a current student in the ISS Child & Youth Studies in Development Context course

Leslie Moore’s presentation on ‘Leveraging Qur’anic schooling for Western-style educational goals’ was mainly centered on comparing Qur’anic schooling to western style schooling, and the ways in which the techniques/traditions of Qur’anic schooling can be leveraged to achieve western-educational goals. More specifically how can Qur’anic schooling be used in order to expand the provision and participation of basic education, as well as to improve educational outcomes for Muslim children who are perceived as being left behind? While these ambitions may be of honorable intention, we should be critical.

For example, looking at the title itself ‘Leveraging Qur’anic schooling for Western-style educational goals’ Moore defines the term leverage as ‘to use something valuable to achieve a desired result’. While this may be the chosen understanding of the verb, and the Merriam-Webstar dictionary does acknowledge this definition, it also presents the following definition, ‘to use for gain: exploit.’ A few of the synonyms listed include abuse, capitalize (on), impose (on or upon), and exploit.

Similarly, it’s important to break down what are the ‘goals’ of western style education that are trying to be achieved. Literacy as well as intellectual, spiritual moral, and community development are mentioned as ideal outcomes of schooling, and while Moore clearly acknowledges that pedagogical shortcomings remain in western style schooling, but highlights the ideal schooling as built on progressive pedagogies that include student-structured instruction, that is inquiry-based and promotes meta-cognition. This is in contrast to critical pedagogy theorists Friere (1970) and Illich (1971) who emphasize the repressive realities of schooling that institutionalize and legitimatize existing power hierarchies and inequalities.

Moore discussed how historically colonial support of Qur’anic schools was the result of goals to reduce Pan-Arab Islamic influence, and to preserve local Islam that fit the interests of the colonizers best. Equally, it’s important to now recognize the motivations behind the current interest in Qur’anic schooling. If the intention is to leverage Qur’anic schooling for Western-style educational goals, we must dig deeper into where goals of increasing literacy intersect with goals of fighting fundamentalism in a geo-political context of Islamaphobia.

We can see such a development initiative as part of the global diffusion of modern education. Andersen-Levitt (2005) explains how “The spread of western style schooling means children growing up around the globe have a more uniform experience of socialization than in the past (998)” and that “Western-style schools can be found everywhere now. They co-exist with other systems of formal education such as Quranic schools and have displaced alternative school systems” (991). This single global model of schooling is part of a much larger globalization process. Ansell (2005), who describes various approaches to development and the neglect of children and youth in these processes, shows how within modernization theory development is done by governments/institutions, and one criterion of ‘modernized children’ is that they attend school. But as Levinson and Holland (1996) remind us, schools are not innocent sites of cultural transmission. Schools tend to target the young, often by global powers, and thus such initiatives to ‘leverage’ Qur’anic traditions should by viewed with caution.


Anderson-Levitt, K. M. (2005) ‘The Schoolyard Gate: Schooling and Childhood in Global Perspective’, Journal of Social History, 38(4), pp. 987-1006.

Ansell, N. (2005) ‘“Development”, Globalisation and Poverty as Contexts for Growing Up’ in Children, Youth and Development. London: Routledge, pp. 38-62.

Friere, P. (1996 (1970)) ‘The “banking” concept of education as an instrument of oppression’ in Pedagogy of the Oppressed. London: Penguin Books. Chapter 2.

Illich, I. (1971) ‘Why We Must Disestablish School’, in Deschooling Society. New York Harper & Row, pp. 1-24

Levarage. 2015. In Merriam-Webster.com.Retrieved February 16, 2015 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/levarage

Levinson, B. A. and D.C. Holland (1996) ‘The Cultural Production of the Educated Person: An Introduction’, in B.A. Levinson, D.E. Foley and D.C. Holland (eds.) The Cultural Production of the Educated Person: Ethnographies of Schooling and Local Practice. Albany: State University of New York Press, pp. 1-30.

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