FOCUSING ON OUR YOUNG
October 24, 2003
YOUTH featured prominently on the Guyana agenda Wednesday, when Prince Edward included a five-hour visit to the country on his usually busy schedule.
Then again, youth has always had a profound impact on Government's policy.
The drafting of a National Youth Policy, the President's Youth Choice Initiative and a multiplicity of programs on HIV/AIDS prevention, student learning and skills training, and the soliciting of international funding to effectively execute them, all stem from Government's determination to teach young people a vocation, provide them with personal/business management expertise, and give them self-esteem and a sense of leadership.
The Government has been bold enough to seek not only funding for its programs on youth development, but also to have the country's youths adapt to initiatives in countries like Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States that have transformed the lives of young Americans, Britons and Canadians.
Guyana is also very fortunate to get the endorsement and productive support of British royalty for the activation of its youth development programs. Prince Edward's flying to Guyana specifically to reiterate his family's and country's support for the President's Youth Award program ought to give the initiative a welcome impetus.
The 16 youths who received awards from Prince Edward must now share their knowledge and experience and further expand the movement to divert young people who are prone to delinquency into keeping active. These youth leaders are expected to serve as positive role models to their peers and so help give them a purpose.
In the U.S., a growing number of organizations are doing all of these things using bicycles. Most of this new genre of social programs is run by non-profit organizations in which young people are taught to bring dead bicycles back to life.
The more established programs are reportedly developing additional elements such as safety training, peer instruction, racing teams, overnight cycling trips, retail shops, and mobile bicycle repair clinics. But inherent in these training programs is the goal of using bicycles to teach young people bicycle mechanics and safety, work habits, and leadership skills.
Through the network, member groups can exchange information, ideas and solutions so each program doesn't have to "re-invent the wheel".
In our editorial on International Youth Day 2003, commemorated Thursday, August 12, we echoed UN Secretary General Kofi Annan's urge for governments "everywhere to put renewed emphasis on creating jobs for an estimated 74 million unemployed young people around the world."
The Government's many initiatives, and program support from a number of non-governmental organizations, seek not only to prepare young people for the world of work, but also to address facets of adolescent misbehaviour head on.
Hopefully, the increasing involvement of young Guyanese in these programs will spare us the agony that other countries are experiencing: young people featuring in adolescent violence, drug abuse and pregnancy on a scale that symbolizes society's failure to provide adequate support and direction for its young.
The appeal is in keeping with policies that have long been advocated by the National Union of Public and General Employees.
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan
"Young workers - women, people of colour, Aboriginals, immigrants, gays and lesbians, and young men - are among the most vulnerable workers in Canada," says National Union president James Clancy.
"In the workforce, they are often in part- time, insecure jobs at low pay - sometimes no pay - and in unhealthy, even dangerous conditions. Workplace injury rates among young people, and youth unemployment rates, are high. And many of the homeless people on our streets are young people. Our young people often do not know their civil rights or their rights as workers. They are often vulnerable to exploitation."
"Young people are especially exploited by minimum wage employers, and governments who support them," Clancy noted.
Exploitation in Ontario
"We need only look at what has happened in Ontario since the Conservative government was elected eight long years ago. The minimum wage has remained frozen all that time - the worst single record of any government in Canada. International Youth Day should force us all to take a closer look at these vital issues."
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan leader issued a statement from Iran to mark Aug. 12, the fourth UN International Youth Day. Creating jobs for young people is the theme of this year's observances.