Hope in youth

Stabroek News
December 29, 2000

On December 3, 27 young people graduated from a programme called 'Hope in Youth'. It was the fifth annual exercise of what has become a safety net for school dropouts, who would otherwise fall through the cracks. The programme was the brainchild of Ursuline nun, Sister Beatrice Fernandes, who felt something ought to be done about the increasing numbers of children begging on the streets.

The programme, which is patterned after the Servol Adolescent Development Programme in Trinidad, began with a modest curriculum and volunteer teachers. It is free and offers regular classroom sessions, one-on-one teaching of reading for teens who never learned how and skills training for those who show an aptitude for it. Among the areas covered are carpentry, catering, sewing, cake decorating and plumbing.

Amazingly, the Hope in Youth programme, which has never been advertised, has always been oversubscribed. Youths who have benefited would tell their friends, proof that children who the formal education system had failed still felt they and others could benefit from some sort of training.

Hope in Youth graduates have gone on to higher training at the Government Technical Institute, to write CXC exams and hold responsible jobs. The programme has tapped the private sector, from which it has received untold assistance. This has been forthcoming in the form of cash donations; persons volunteering their time to teach, counsel, or be big brothers/sisters to these troubled children; work study and job placements at various organisations.

It has not all been smooth sailing, however, as the current programme coordinator Sister Claudiet Jones said in her report this year. Thirty-five trainees started the course, 23 completed the entire programme and four only managed to complete part one. Even among the dropouts there are dropouts, but the administrators of the programme have always continued to give of their best and should be commended. The private sector's contribution, given quietly (behind the scenes) is also laudable.

The question is often asked, what is being done for young people? Those who ask the question always conclude that it is the government who should be doing all that there is to be done. Impossible. How many, given the opportunity, would contribute of their time and resources to such a programme?

The current state of education in Guyana guarantees that Hope in Youth will always be overrun by young men and women, some of whom would have gone through the entire school system and not learned to write their names. There is scope for and the resources to run many other such programmes and perhaps other organisations could look at starting similar ones in other towns and regions of Guyana.

Today's youths are bombarded with AIDS, drugs and far more challenges than say 20 years ago. Society must begin to understand the benefits of investing in youths. This must be seen within the context of sustainable human development. It's no use paying lip service to the maxim 'youths are the leaders of tomorrow' then standing by and doing nothing to prepare them for these roles.

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