Submitted by George Brathwaite
It was back in 2012 that the current CARICOM Secretary-General re-affirmed his commitment to the region’s youth. Since then, the people of Barbados, and those in the region, have heard numerous Heads of Government, including Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, voicing their support and encouragement for the implementation of youth programmes and providing adequate spaces for the young people of the region. These national leaders all say that the youth must thrive while becoming empowered socially, politically, and financially. Who would disagree?
As this writer traverses the country, and particularly in the rural districts of St. John, it is evident that there is a fairly high level of discontent among the youth. Our young people have been robbed of several opportunities, particularly over the last five years. While they are eager to become involved in several nation-building and personal development activities, the youth are frustrated due to a lack of genuine involvement at decision-making levels.
The disconnect between the youth and civic leaders are pronounced as drop-out rates continue to baffle programme managers in the areas of education, sports, and even community projects. The persistence of lawlessness has become both a rural and urban phenomenon, and persons in Barbados consistently say that they feel less safe today than a decade ago. Parents, teachers, government, and the private sector have all been challenged to commit greater efforts for helping eliminate poverty and joblessness as a means for encouraging the youth into wholesome activities.
It is my contention that the key platform for this nation’s social transformation must be built on prioritising our youth, but within the scope of sustainable national development programmes. There should be greater focus of attracting investments and finance, specifically with a vital commitment to create lots more jobs to make high unemployment among the youth a thing of the past. Barbados’ youth must get work.
Those young persons that have been feeling the pains of writing application after application without even getting acknowledgements must be given real chances. New opportunities will surely enrich the lives of our young people. That is exactly why it is heartening to see that in recent months, both the ruling Democratic Labour Party and the opposition Barbados Labour Party have addressed several of the issues affecting young persons. Some emphasis has to go on enhancing the school curriculum to address current deficiencies which have been said to be structural in nature and fail to lend potency to the transition from the classroom to the workplace.
In addition, the country has to take a firm grip on the services that are created to support our youth, while demonstrating the responsibility and goodwill necessary to have youth involved in the decisions that will have direct implications on their livelihoods. We have to find and/or develop avenues to utilise and maximise the skills that our youth possess. In months to come, the fruits of our labour ought not be in vain. There should be no dejection for reinstituting free education and giving the young people of this country voice, visibility, and a chance to develop and succeed.