Catching up with youth

Guyana Chronicle
September 1, 1999

IN HIS address to the nation on August 20, President Bharrat Jagdeo related the concerns an elderly woman expressed to him about youth while he was on a recent visit to the Essequibo Coast.

"...for her the most important thing at the moment is to take care of the many young ones in the community who have a full life ahead of them", he said.

The President added: "As I looked around, I saw many young people and I could see in their youthful faces expressions of hope and expectation.

"It struck me that simply put, she was saying that the objective of any government should be the fulfilment of the dreams, aspirations, hopes and needs of people, especially young people.

"This is a simple truth that often evades policy makers.

"It is this task, above all, that will motivate my administration."

This emphasis has been widely welcomed, not least by young people themselves, because the problems are many and resources scarce.

There has been a recognition before that youth issues deserve special attention, reflected in the establishment of a Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, currently under the energetic and capable Ms. Gail Teixeira, and several programmes have been developed to address these.

But youth problems have reached crisis proportions in some countries and this special recognition accorded the issue here by a President, who is himself 35, is an appreciation of what faces the country at the highest level of the administration.

Young people are particularly vulnerable to drugs and the AIDS scourge and they are targeted at all levels by drug barons.

Many of them coming out of school are ill-equipped for the job market and they can be seen wandering aimlessly day and night, especially in rural communities.

The sweeping changes in the world of technology, especially computers, do not make things easier for young people without a proper education and special programmes would have to be devised to take care of them.

In this area, a survey should be done at the community level to determine how to get ill-equipped young people off the streets - where they quickly become a threat to others - and into beneficial occupations.

The concept of the Guyana National Service scheme, once targeted at youths, should be revisited and fashioned more to suit the special needs of young people more disadvantaged than others.

Youth and other civic groups should also be brought into the picture to draw up schemes for young people that fit into the national development strategy.

"Everywhere I go there is one recurrent topic: jobs for our people. In different parts of the country, many students are graduating and there are limited prospects for higher education and jobs", President Jagdeo noted in his address.

The good thing is that there is the recognition of the problem.

The next best thing is for concerted action across the land from the community level up, starting from the smallest village.

The nation cannot afford to be out of step with its young people.

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Guyana: Land of Six Peoples