By Dara Chea,
Do you think young people have it easy?
Some people say youths are carefree and have a lot of fun . Particularly, most older people often criticize youngsters for wasting so much time on nonsense , like playing around or hanging out with their peers, spending too much time on the Internet, consuming drugs or alcohol, or using violence in the public. Seemingly, teenage life is probably the most memorable time,, which is not only fun, frolic, and happiness, but also a combination of bittersweet experiences. It seems like they have a lot of fulfilling fun in their life.
However, this is not true at all. Every coin has two sides. Not many people can actually understand the youth’s feelings. If we take a deeper look into their lives, we might be surprised to find that their lives are not, in fact, fun.
In reality, youth is quite a complicated phase of life. Many youngsters have got countless problems and challenges, which other people of different ages might not notice. Compared to other generations, young people think a lot about their lives. It is just that sometimes, their voices cannot be heard due to some barriers in terms of culture, tradition, and social norm, which separate them from their older generations and thus leave a big gap between these two generations.
As a youth myself, I have encountered tons of challenges since becoming a young adult. So I am writing this article to inform other people from different generations out there that we, young people, have been misunderstood and judged wrongly. Here are the most challenging problems that we are encountering in today’s world:
Inequality in Education
Perhaps, this is one of the most challenging issues for youths in Cambodia. If we look into the opportunity for Cambodian youths to pursue higher education, there is a huge gap, particularly between youths living in urban areas and rural areas. Not all young people have the chance to receive a good education after finishing high school. This mostly happens to young people in rural areas who cannot pursue higher education due to economic, social, and cultural constraints in Cambodia.
Among these, lack of financial support is the main problem, preventing most Cambodian youths from accomplishing their goals by denying them the opportunity to access resources and advance their interests by pursuing higher education. Because of this, some young people decide to drop out of school. Although some have even completed their high school education with a good grade, they don’t have the chance to go to university. Some of them are forced to help their parents in business or farming, work as laborers or factory workers, or even sometimes migrate to our neighboring countries just to make ends meet.
You might say money is not important, but you might think differently if you don’t have any. How could you live without money? Sure, you may need only a job to make a decent living. But is it easy to get a job? Who says finding a job is easy, especially one that you like doing? I want to tell you that you have to go through various challenging phases until you get your dream job.
That is why unemployment is still a big nightmare in many youths’ lives nowadays. Many graduates find it hard to get a good job. There are many reasons underlying this problem, but the size of the job market and the competency of young people themselves are leading factors. According to ILO, the youth unemployment rate in cambodia in 2017 is at 0.42 percent. The report also shows most of the jobs are vulnerable jobs, meaning that though technically employed, many Cambodians find it hard to make ends meet.
Perhaps, nearly all young people in Cambodia share this problem. Many Cambodian parents still hold the view that they should play important roles in deciding their children’s future, whether it is choosing a life partner, a university major or a job. They believe that since they have gained many more experiences than their children, they are right to turn down their children’s decisions or aspirations that are different from their expectations or wishes. For instance, if their child chooses to study agriculture, while they wish him or her to be a lawyer, conflicts can arise between youngsters and their parents.
Another pressure Cambodian young people experience, is the comparing culture of their parents. Basically, when parents meet one another, they often brag about their own children. How would you feel when your parents come to tell you that, “You see, a daughter of my friend got a scholarship to study in the US. How about you? Why don’t you go for it as well?” These kind of comments only leave children feeling more pressured by the very high bar their parents set for them. They may feel dragged down and discouraged from reaching their dream goals. In the worst case, they can become demoralized and loose the purpose of life.
Of course, I believe that nearly all young people have a common problem coping with time management. We all have 24 hours per day. But the point is how would you handle things within a very limited amount of time? Living in society, nowadays, is highly challenging due to the fact that we have to deal with the various expectations of society. Plus, more importantly, the very high bar our parents set for us. We are expected to do so much, including gaining a good performance, both at school and workplace, as well as having a good social life. We are torn, and it’s bloody tough especially for those who study and work simultaneously because they need a balance between a good score and working experience.
How can you fit in a society where people like to show off their possessions such as new smartphones, cars, clothes, accessories, and so on? How can you go sit and talk with your friends when they are using their smartphones ( Iphone X, Samsung Galaxy S9) and new Macbook Air, and are busy discussing about expensive clothes or restaurants?
It’s not easy to live in a society where people value possessions over knowledge. Some youngsters find it hard to catch up with the new social trends which promote materialism. They seem to lag behind their peers. How could they catch up with the materialistic culture when some of them are financially struggling? They are being dragged into a new world where people are mostly concerned about how they appear to others.
Imagine if you dress up in a sloppy outfit and go to a wedding party. People will eye you like you are a freak and talk behind your back. However, say you are a guy who drives the latest BMW and dresses up in a Korean or Western style to the party. Sure, a lot of girls will eye you or even approach you for taking a selfie. If you don’t believe me, try wearing very sloppy outfits and walk past the crowd in a wedding, and let’s see what would be people’s reactions? Also, a man with the latest BMW will generally earn more respect from others if compared to a decent man with an old motorbike.
“The FUTURE.” These words are a big nightmare for many youngsters when they are asked, “What and who do you want to be in the future?” Not only are all of you reading this right now concerned about your future, but I am too. I am wondering what the future holds. I do not know what will happen in the next few minutes, much less years from now.
Time does fly by. We keep aging, while it seems we haven’t prepared anything for the upcoming milestones yet. That’s why we live in fear – not knowing how to prepare today for the future. In other words, we tend to overthink the future rather than focus on taking actions today. Maybe we are just not ready to cope with our own life. We have to think about what major we should take, what job we should do after graduation or how we could make a living. It is even more mind-bending to think of your future partner and creating a family. It’s really a big matter like trying to climb the Mount Everest, isn’t it?
For all adults, I hope that after reading this article, you will stop holding misperceptions of young people, but rather help, support and guide them. For all young people out there, I believe all of the problems presented above are probably the most common issues we share together. However, perhaps, I have only just touched the icing of the cake, and I believe that there are still more problems emerging in our lives. Should you have any other challenging factors in your life, please feel free to make it known here. I highly recommend you, my fellow youths, to speak out about your issues, so that other people of different ages can get to know us more clearly.
Views expressed here are those of the author’s and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of UNICEF.