education, health, mental health, wellbeing

Divided we stand, united we fall

As a Youth Leader, my role is to support and advocate for young people, but what do you do when they really don’t seem to care?

I suppose the trouble is, first and foremost, that ‘young people’ in a youth work context, tends to refer to those under 18 and that once that magic age hits, adulthood comes knocking, and they’re expected to be able to understand the world. As we know with the brain’s development, they’ve a few years yet to mature.

This is evident from where I live. Oxford. The heart of the University lifestyle. We are encompassed, strangled some say, by the University’s ever expanding developments. I myself am basically now sat in the middle of a campus. What this means in reality is that if I want to walk anywhere I’m surrounded by students.

Does this bother me? In the main, no. It brings money to the area, many are polite or keep themselves to themselves, some even get involved locally with volunteering acts. Generally, no issues. I went through Uni, and it’s admirable that individuals want to take on this challenge in a bid to better themselves and the world around them, but let’s get something straight. You’ve got to play ball. If you’ve moved into the community, you must be part of it and respect it.

Our area, as with other communities, has worked hard to do what it can to prevent the spread of Covid-19. There were concerns, naturally, with University students being brought into the locality again, not least because it’s been a particularly difficult time for their wellbeing, and it could go one of two ways. Sadly, it’s going the way it shouldn’t, but who’s to blame?

The cries of ‘It’s not fair. We should should be allowed to enjoy Fresher’s week’ can be heard all around, but I’m sorry folks, rules are rules, and you need to follow them. We’ve seen and heard of parties with 30/50/more than the permitted amount. There have been stories of cross-bubbling with groups of six sitting together, one person leaving, and another joining. That’s not keeping a bubble, that’s not being clever with the system, that’s being unsafe. Is it that they don’t understand the rules? I get that they’re not always especially clear but on this they are and ignorance is not an excuse. Don’t understand them? Ask or quit Uni (I don’t think you’ll make it if counting past six is tricky).

I saw last night a group of approximately 30, none with masks, spread across the road and path, hailing a bus. Masks are required, but it’s fine because we’ll remove them as soon as we get on. Come on people! Where’s your sense of community? Your care for your fellow human? Your concern for yourself and your friends?

And then, the complete inability to understand that when a shop (that is on the campus) has arrows showing a one-way system is in place, how you can simply ignore and flout this. Is it a case of rules don’t apply or do you not understand what an arrow is? If it’s the latter, Uni isn’t the best place for you. I work with primary school children half the week. Even they get it.

It’s infuriating and sad that you’ve been dragged to Uni only to be told two weeks later that things are up the swanny and your lectures are all over the place. It’s disheartening. I appreciate that this is meant to be a period to signal the start of adulthood, and socialising is a part of that. Not being able to enjoy this period in the way you expected to must be a real strain, but there are ways and means of socialising without rule breaking. Understand that if you don’t follow the rules, if you are unfortunate enough to contract Covid and get it bad or be asymptomatic and pass it on, either you won’t see adulthood, or you may just kill off your lecturer anyway, and then you’re screwed.

You want to go home for Christmas and the government say ‘No. Have your roast dinner in your flat’. Bummer, but why are they being mean? Because you’re not following the rules. Parties are not the way to stop the spread. It’s really simple. Keep those small bubbles, wear your mask, distance, don’t bed hop, and remember to wash your hands. The rates may then go down, lectures can return to some normality, you might even get to go home in December without having to isolate. Life, and ultimately your wellbeing, may very well improve. Action is needed now!

YOU are our future. You may be the next Prime Minister (if so, please do a good job!) and you may have dreams of raising your own family (good luck to you). None of this will be possible without you rallying together now for your generation, the older generation, and the future generation. Yes, we all have a part to play, but my point is, you can’t moan about how awful things are, when you’re not able to follow the basic guidance yourselves.

In Youth Work, we fight for the young people in our charge, be that at youth clubs, in other similar organisations, or running DofE or young leader schemes. We help you develop during a difficult transition period in your lives with the aim that you will go forth and shine, and, as noted, I have great respect for those who tackle Uni (and those who don’t of course) because it can be one of the hardest periods of your lives, but don’t make it harder on yourselves. It may seem like I’m moaning about you all, but it’s frustrating to know that the one group of people that could really make a difference to the world at the moment in so many ways are some of the ones showing they do not have respect for themselves or others. (Caveat, it’s not all of you. It’s a minority, but the majority need to drag the minority up to par).

And don’t get me started on environmental destruction. The litter in the park this morning of oversized crisp packets and alcohol bottles thrown on the ground near the bin is disgusting. Litter doesn’t need to social distance and dear old David Attenborough would be doing his nut if he saw the state it’s been left in. Each year there’s an argument that you can point fingers, but I beg to differ. This type of litter only appears when the Universities are back.

This feels like a moan, a rant, and in some ways it is. I feel for you all, I really do. It’s an awful time to be a young person, a young adult, a student. So many uncertainties and your mental health has taken a bashing (I work in wellbeing remember, so I get you), but please, hit that pause button for a second, and think about the not so small but very significant part you play in the global pandemic.

Now’s the time to stand together (well 2 metres apart), be counted, and play your part before it’s too late. It would be great to see your generation graduate than fall foul of this awful virus. Getting through this will show your true strength, resolve, and character.

(Image geralt pixabay)

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