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[Herald Interview] Helping African youth with better 'mind education'

IYF founder Park Ock-soo met with African leaders to foster personality education

April 14, 2022 - 15:38 By Shin Ji-hye
Rev. Park Ock-soo, founder of the International Youth Fellowship (IYF)

Young people in many parts of Africa lack opportunities for more comprehensive education, and need support, says Rev. Park Ock-soo, founder of the nonprofit International Youth Fellowship.

Recalling a story of a student burning down a school apparently over a trivial disagreement with a teacher, Rev. Park said that such incidents are a result of a lack of “thinking skills and self-control,” and that many young people on the continent lack access to guidance and education that would help them nurture such traits.

The pastor, who leads the Christian youth organization that aims to foster leaders through youth education, community service and cultural exchanges, sees it as a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

“In some African countries, children aged 15-16 join rebel groups. They would easily say ‘I killed four people’ or ‘I killed five.’ If they survived after participating in several battles, they think ‘I will not get shot in future battles,’” he said.

Rev. Park wanted to help these African youth.

Last month, he visited seven southern African countries, including Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Eswatini, Lesotho, Botswana and Mozambique, and Israel at the invitation of their governments.

He met with the leaders of five countries -- Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Eswatini and Lesotho -- and their ministers, lawmakers, ambassadors, mayors, education officials and journalists.

Park discussed IYF’s “mind education” for African youth with the leaders, a practice he describes as teaching young people how to develop the power of mind by changing the way they think, communicate, control their minds and interact with others.

“African children watch a lot of videos. It is fun and knowledgeable, but watching a video is different from reading a book. Books allow you to think, but videos don’t. The ability to think will be inevitably poor,” he said.

He called on the African leaders to discuss with education ministers on allowing IYF to roll out the mind education program to teachers, with lessons once a week.

“If it is evaluated to be good after a year, they can adopt mind education nationwide. We shared the views mostly with these ideas and decided to discuss them practically,” he said.

Park said middle and high schools in some US states, including California and New York, use mind education in place of textbooks, and similar efforts are also being made in some African countries. 

Rev. Park Ock-soo met with leaders of five southern African countries during a visit to the region to discuss youth education. The photo shows Rev. Park meeting with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema. (IYF)

In particular, the IYF’s mind education is expected to be introduced to public schools in Botswana.

In a meeting with President Mokgweetsi Masisi on March 30, Park explained IYF’s plan to implement mind education in the nation and the president told him the government would actively help to launch the program in consultation with related ministries.

The meeting was attended by IYF education officials and ministers from across government departments.

The Botswana government has provided the IYF with a 1.8-hectare youth center in the capital Gaborone and progress is underway, Park said.

Rev. Park also met with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema to discuss youth education with related ministers.

During the meeting, Park proposed introducing the IYF’s mind education into Zambian public education. He suggested ways to expand the program in Zambia over the next 10 years, including selecting pilot schools, training teachers and establishing of a “mind department.”

In response, President Hichilema said Zambia is keen to provide education that focuses on self-development through mind education, according to the IYF.

IYF began construction of the IYF Youth Center in 2016 on government land. Completed on March 24, the center’s launch ceremony was attended by Zambian Vice President Mutale Nalumango.

In addition, mind education is being taught as a regular course at the Copperbelt University in Zambia, which signed an education agreement with the IYF in 2016.

Separately, Park also plans to expand cultural exchange among youths in Israel through mind education. 

During his visit to Israel in March at the government’s invitation, Rev. Park Ock-soo discussed mind education with Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin. (IYF)

During his visit to Israel in March at the government’s invitation, Rev. Park discussed mind education with Minister of Jerusalem Affairs Ze’ev Elkin, government officials and lawmakers.

Rev. Park visited the city of Ashdod and signed a memorandum of understanding with Deputy Mayor Eli Nacht.