Those “invisible young people” between the cage of poverty and the desire for redemption

We offer readers an excerpt from the volume of Giuseppe Di Fazio, the first book published by our magazine. Research on the impact of educational poverty in the South, but also a look at some stories that show the possibility of a different tomorrow

The big cities of the South, although they can host important industrial settlements, universities or renowned airports, all suffer – from Naples to Palermo, from Reggio Calabria to Catania – from the same inability: to consider young people as a resource. key to development and therefore allow them to generate value for the territories. That is why the new generations – even high school graduates – are fleeing the South and those who remain often fall into the category of NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training, ie young people who do not study, work or are in training) or, worse, in that of “at risk” children. The serious negligence of local authorities and regions towards the younger generations can be seen in the data on early school leaving, which in the South has a rate of 5.3 points higher than in the north of the country. Without cultivating human capital, the cities of the South are excluded from social and economic growth. In addition, tackling the issue of minors head on and investing in them would also be the first and decisive way to fight the different mafias that condition the social life of the South.

“Where the educational and training offer of the state does not reach, crime often arrives.”

Sicilian Anti-Mafia Commission

MINORS IN THE HAND OF THE MAFIA. As Magistrate Sebastiano Ardita writes, it is wrong to think that the more mafia children there are in prison, the more the state has won. Instead, “the victory figure over the military mafia is not the number of those we will be able to imprison, but the number of those we will have pulled out of the quicksand.” It is enough to read the reports of the magistrates for the inauguration of the judicial year 2022 in the big cities of the South or the Investigation on the youthful condition in Sicily elaborated by the Anti-Mafia Commission of the ARS in 2022 to realize se’n. “Where there is poverty, degradation and early school leaving – argues, for example, the Attorney General of the Court of Appeal of Naples, Luigi Riello – the Camorra can only appear as a benefactress.” The same can be said of the mafia in a reality like that of Mount Etna, which, according to the president of the Court of Appeal of Catania Filippo Pennisi, presents an alarming situation: “most of the 80,000 minors living in the territory over which the Juvenile Court has jurisdiction – writes Pennisi – lives in conditions of obvious “educational poverty” and in an environment very lacking in administrative resources, as well as in the services of prevention and pedagogical support, both in the school environment as in the field of socialization ». Here, then, the mafia finds fertile ground for recruiting its picciotti, because, as the Sicilian Anti-Mafia Commission writes, “where the state’s educational and training offer does not reach organized crime, it often arrives with a system of seductions, of values. And a recruitment that marks forever the destiny of these minors ”.

The cover of the book

AN “EDUCATIONAL PACT”. The national government also seems to have become aware of the problem, moving forward accordingly. It is no coincidence that in the signing of the Security Agreement signed in Naples on January 19, 2022 by the prefect of Naples, president of the region and mayor, Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese recalled the importance of supporting a “Educational pact” between institutions and civil society. In the same circumstance, Minister Lamorgese, referring to the Neapolitan situation, stressed that “school evasion is a problem that can not and should not be underestimated, given that in 2021 only in the city s “They have registered more than 2000 cases of dropout between primary and secondary schools.”

AL PETIT DE PINO PUGLISI. Don Pino Puglisi, the rector of Brancaccio assassinated by the mafia in Palermo in 1993, understood well that the education of minors is the main point of attack on the invasive culture of organized crime: “The first targets are children and adolescents – he said in a meeting with the volunteers of his parish in Brancaccio in 1992 – with them we still have time, the pedagogical action can be effective, with the adults everything is more difficult.With the children we do not have to do philosophical discourses, we need to help them understand their human dignity, to give meaning to their lives.And already at this age it is not easy, because many boys are forced to work or steal.And many girls are forced to make it worse, because there are also cases of child prostitution in the neighborhood. coexistence, lived with a new style with respect to those he knows at home. (.. .) This gives children the opportunity to see life differently. It is also true that without the resources of the younger generations the South cannot aspire to dignified development. The lack of exploitation, or worse, has been wasted, the potential represented by young people and their human capital represented in the first fifteen years of the 21st century, the “worst defeat in Italy.”

“Every month of delay in starting vocational training costs the community at least 20 million euros”

Roberto Cellini, economist

THE ELOQUENCE OF THE DATA. Italy is still today, in fact, one of the largest NEET factories in Europe. Compared to an EU average of 13.7%, the Italian average of NEETs reaches 23.3%, with peaks of 38.6% in Sicily. In total, young Italians aged 15 to 29 who do not work, do not study and are not in training, exceeded 2 million in 2020 and represent approximately one-fifth of the total European NEETs. This situation entails amazing social costs. In 2013, Eurofond estimated the economic loss from NEETs (30.6 billion for Italy) for the EU at 153 billion euros per year and a cost of 1.2% of GDP. The huge costs are also caused by early school leaving, which is especially prevalent in southern Italy. An example to get an idea of ​​the extent of “damage”. In 2015, economist Roberto Cellini, now director of the Department of Economics and Business at the University of Catania, conducted a study to quantify the damage caused by chronic delays in starting vocational training courses in Sicily that , at that time, affected. about 10 thousand minors of compulsory age. “Every month of delay in starting courses – wrote Cellini – costs the community at least 20 million euros.” The presence in the South of a very high number of NEETs (34%) and children in a situation of early school leaving (16.3% with peaks of 22% in some Sicilian capitals) seriously affects the socio-economic fabric, both because favors flight. of young people in the South, both because it fuels the growth of juvenile delinquency. However, the drama of these southern boys, whom Alessandro Pronzato in a book on Scampia written by Davide Cerullo in collaboration with Davide Cerullo compares to “angels with burned wings,” does not seem to interest anyone.

STORIES OF REDEMPTION. Children born in the southern Bronx (San Cristoforo in Catania; Zen or Brancaccio in Palermo; Scampia in Naples; small towns with a high density of ‘Ndrangheta in Calabria) are forced to remain in the “cage” all their lives. what were they born? Or do they have the opportunity to access freedom, to be able to choose their own future and destiny? And, if so, by what roads? These are the questions we will try to answer through the narration of some virtuous examples. In particular, we will look at some attempts made in the South to give young people, especially those living in at-risk neighborhoods, the opportunity to take control of their own future and to be free to choose.

The volume can be purchased in preview in bookstores:
Mondadori Bookstore, piazza Roma 18, Catania
San Paolo Bookstore, via Vittorio Emanuele, 182 Catania

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