The Telenor Youth Forum 2015, which concluded in December of last year, brought back the highly popular arena for debate, discussion and experience sharing. This time, the Telenor team scoured through 13 countries with Telenor’s presence to find 25 of the brightest young minds. With the theme “Knowledge for all”, participants worldwide were challenged to come up with different views and solutions for the topic and the best 25 among them were given the chance to not only present their ideas to an audience at Telenor’s headquarters in Fornebu, Norway but also attended talks by a host of visionaries, and finally were given the chance to attend the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony to gain further inspiration.
Given the current education sector and the unique challenges that Bangladesh faces, much was expected from Bangladesh’s brightest minds and they did not fail to deliver. Twenty-two year old Abreshmee Adeeba Haque and 19 year old Sabab Rahman, both students at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka made the final cut and were chosen as flag-bearers of Bangladesh. Both individuals displayed their intellect very early on but eventually it was their passion and their commitment to their cause that finally shone through the brightest.
“Racism is as issue that is ingrained at the formative years. So it is important and most effective to target the children if we want to make a dent on racism,” Sabab Rahman began when asked to explain his idea. “The Glassroom is a cross-cultural programme that would be incorporated in the course work of the schools around the world and in this programme students would have one-on-one video chatting sessions with students from different parts of the world. They would be talking about their rituals, festivals, traditions, culture and their way of life. For example: a Norwegian student could learn the art of sushi directly from a Japanese student,” he said. Explaining the reasoning behind his idea, Sabab stressed the need for young students to learn to appreciate the cultural diversity and become more sensitive towards other cultures. Given the current context of the world, with questions being asked of the challenges migrants and refugees face in terms of adaptability to different cultures, Sabab’s idea bordered on the revolutionary. His idea of bridging cultural gaps through an educative and interactive means received many plaudits.
Abreshmee chose not only an idea conceptualised, but also one she was on her way to execute. “Muthoschool is a free online website that delivers learning resources such as e-books, video tutorials, fun DIY experiment instructions and other meaningful content so that school students can get access to quality education through any internet enabled device regardless of their financial ability,” she explained. “Students can chat with volunteer teachers to clear their confusions, practice exercises with explanations and earn points by completing the study tasks. This will encourage studying and by rewarding efforts of the students rather than marks it will instil better values,” she said. She also said that through this, in the future, their improved skills will lead to better earning capacity and create more motivated, value driven and innovative individuals. Abreshmee explained that her idea was formed early on in high school when she realised that the practice of rote was a tedious way of learning and understanding was a much better way of going about things. Abreshmee’s vision with Muthoschool is one that may one day directly affect the education system in Bangladesh. Poor facilities, unmotivated teachers and the low teacher to student ratio are three things that Abreshmee thinks Muthoschool can address. Her idea too was well appreciated and she followed all of that up with a stellar presentation.
But it wasn’t just about attending the various talks or even showcasing their ideas on such a prestigious platform as provided by the Telenor Youth Forum. The whole journey was full of brand new lessons and a broadening of horizon. “One thing I have learnt is that despite being from completely different countries and cultures there can be a lot in common between individuals and we tend to underestimate the power of dialogue for expanding the horizons of our thinking,” Abreshmee said of her experience, having encountered and lived with delegates from all corners of the world. When queried who the best speaker was from all the talks she attended, Abreshmee chose the visionary with the most élan, perhaps. “Justin Ferrell from d.school inspired me the most. His session focused on design thinking for problem solving and innovation,” she said.
Sabab Rahman, on the other hand, gleaned a more philosophical enlightenment. “No idea is too small. If our ideas can make a little positive impact on someone, it is a good idea,” he said. “Also, knowledge isn’t just about formal education. As we step into the digital era, the definition and medium of knowledge is morphing.” Sabab also chose Justin Ferrell as the speaker he enjoyed the most. “Ferrell’s session inspired me the most. Usually when given a problem, we try to define the solution within parameters. But design thinking helps us redefine the problem itself.” He even had a favourite quote from his favourite speaker which he used to sum up his experiences: “Talent hits a target no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see.”
Against the backdrop of the Nobel Peace Prize Ceremony, the forum itself lends hope to a better future, highlighting just how bright the minds of the next generation of leaders are. If you want to find out more about the Telenor Youth Forum, their website has tons of information to offer. If you want to change the world, here’s how you start!