When I was watching Sport Relief last month something struck me quite forcibly and I suspect I was not alone in finding it worthy of comment. In between all the fundraising entertainment are inserted film clips, showing many and varied examples of how the lives of those who live in the third world can be improved exponentially for minimal outlay. I am sure that sometimes we all find it almost too much to bear. This year I found myself making the comparison between the attitudes to schooling displayed by those in Africa for whom it is a dreamed of and unlikely blessing and the recipients of free education for all in the UK.

The pure and unalloyed glee on the faces of African children sitting in a crowded and rudimentary building equipped, if they are lucky, with no more than a few pencils and some paper upon which to write is difficult to reconcile with the demeanour of young people in what we like to call ‘the civilised world’. It is also noticeable that young children who have to walk miles daily for food, water and, if they are lucky schooling, are much more likely to be doing so with a smile on their faces than their more privileged counterparts here. And not just a fleeting smile, but smiles that indicate a simple joyfulness that is enviable and infectious.

I know that I am oversimplifying and that the world inhabited by those children is vastly different to the world that we have constructed for our children.

When you have nothing and are not bombarded with the confusing and distorting daily images of life that our children are exposed to, then life is simpler. When you live in the kind of poverty that third world children endure, being cool is irrelevant, as is the kind of shoes you wear or the fact that your parents don’t take you to Disneyland. Civilisation brings with it a lot of baggage that perversely seems to inhibit civilised behaviour.

So my challenge to the electioneering politicians is simple. What can you do to put smiles back on the faces of young people? Real smiles. Smiles that come from a happiness that is more about who they are and what they can do than it is about what they have and what entertainment is offered to them.

I fear there will be no quick fix.