By Min Htet Aung (Mann Sub-printing house)
Following are excerpts from interviews with the planners of the All-Round Youth Development Festival (Mandalay), which was held from 11 to 13 August, and some famous writers who attended it.
Dr. Zaw Myint Maung,
Chief Minister of Mandalay Region
I exclusively came here to support the festival. It’s a great success and there are many attendants. It’s important for the youths to excel in academics as well as the five strengths of youth. The main aim of the festival is developing the academic and technical knowledge of the youths as well as their ethics and the five strengths of youths – physical, intellectual, moral, social and economic – and building a future human society through their excellent views. There is a saying from the State Counsellor. Everyone has the responsibility to ensure the all-round development of youths. That’s why it’s important for us, the government, parents and guardians and other relevant individuals to cooperate in our involvement on this matter.
Saya Chit Oo Nyo, Writer
This All-Round Youth Development Festival (Mandalay) is filled with more people that the one held in Yangon last year. Perhaps it’s because the location is more spacious too. There is a myriad of things here; entertainment, sports, exhibits. This festival makes me feel pleased and contented because so many (students and faculty from) schools are coming here. Both public and private schools. I can see the children buying books and their teachers requesting them to buy books too. Seeing these children buy books with their pocket money makes me feel pleased as a writer. I also think this will change the one-sided view of most adults that youths do not read anything.
Children are not sure what their own interests are yet nor have they explored the options. They do not yet know what they excel in. Attending this festival can awaken them to their personal interests. You could even call this festival a place that manifests the ingrained interests of youths. The festival includes all-rounded events that allows youths to discover what they excel in and what they would consider as a career. It opens them. In my opinion, I think the All-Round Youth Festival is a movement from the government. The festival is a success. Additionally, the State Counsellor did not hold a peace talk like she normally does, but instead she held a literary roundtable discussion which became an excellent movement. The objective was accomplished as well.
Saya Nyi Pu Lay, Writer
Implementing this festival was a good idea. I adore it. When I got to this festival I heard that it awakened the desire to read in children. Some people say they felt children in the roundtable discussion could have done better. From my perspective as an adult, I think it really reaches children on a deeper level if the person they’re talking to is another child, instead of an adult. Practically, twenty people is a lot. I wish there was a roundtable with businesspeople too. I welcome the roundtable talks with youths in this festival. It’s better when the participants are scrambling to have their turn to speak as opposed to taking turns. I can see that the preparations have become more systematic. Questioners ask questions and the answerers provide answers. I’m particularly pleased that children are attending this festival. They have a lot to learn and take as an example here for when they become youths as well. They will at least get something out of this. I especially wish for these festivals to be held in the regional areas.
Saya Soe Naing (University of Mandalay) Writer
In the youth festival, the State Counsellor is a writer and a poet herself. It’s a festival where this writer and poet meets with the university students who enjoy literature. Hearing it makes me feel elated. The children were well articulated too. The State Counsellor also listened intently to the children and carefully replied to them. That an internationally educated lady paid a visit to the University of Mandalay is a significant event in the university’s history. I take pride in this as an alumnus of the university. The education system suffered for decades.
This festival is one of the basic steps towards fixing that education system. This is initiating the transition from a rote memorization-based education to a system that encourages critical thinking. Modern students don’t visit the museum as frequently anymore. I hope that these students turn towards libraries after participating in these roundtable discussions.