Africa to save Italy's lost youth?

4th June 2010 at 01:00
With both teachers and trash TV being blamed for pupil unhappiness in Milan, a Tanzanian 'adopt a young Italian' scheme could be the answer. Michael Fitzpatrick reports

You may think children in Africa have it tough, but it is enlightening to discover that some Africans feel equally sorry for Europeans - in particular young Italians.

So concerned is one Tanzanian non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in Milan that it has launched an "adopt a young Italian" campaign, citing the "dehumanised" lives of the young here.

The provocatively named Poveri Voi ("poor you") was founded by social worker Ronald Samako in 2008 to do something about what he calls the lost children of Italy. "Italians are sad and confused, they have lost their humanity," he says. "Together we can give them a smile for the future."

He may be on to something. For despite the carefree dolce vita perceived by outsiders, Italians rate bottom of the happiness index on many an international poll. The nation's children fare even worse.

Saddled with an unsure future unless they have the right connections or wealth, and also gifted a sex- and celebrity-obsessed popular culture even more mindless than Britain's, Italy's young are skittering into a trap where many feel the only way out is to become a velina (WAG or starlet) or a footballer.

According to a Gallup poll, Italian youngsters are among the most pessimistic in the world. More than 66 per cent of citizens under the age of 30 said they expected job opportunities to grow increasingly scarce and inequality more and more prevalent. Among teens from 150 countries polled in the survey, Italians were the 32nd most pessimistic.

And to get a handle on just how bad it is here for those without la raccomandazione - the right ties or money - we can look to the despairing former director of Italy's national television network RAI, Pier Luigi Celli. He says Italy is "divided, selfish and ready to cut itself loose from minimal values of solidarity and honesty... a country impossible to remain in with pride". On top of that he urged his teenage son and others to head abroad to save themselves.

And who gets the blame? It will be no surprise to those teaching in the UK, inured to the rise of monster parents and "helicopter mothers", that adults in Italy blame the teachers. In turn, the teachers blame the system and the parents, many of whom have only one child and indulge their offspring's slightest whim. The sociologists blame the gob-smacking nature of Italian trash TV run by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and its ill effects on just about every aspect of Italian life.

Poveri Voi believes the sociologists may be right. So, as part of its campaign, it is organising a series of projects to unglue children from the television, including workshops on cultural activities, organised days out for families and even trips to Tanzania.

If it needs further proof of how TV-influenced young Italians are, it need only turn to the Italian Society of Gynecologists. It has declared that kids here derive the bulk of their sexual education from it - though this is less surprising if you have seen much Italian TV.

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