Nation's future in the hands of youths - President By Shirwin Campbell
Guyana Chronicle
November 2, 2003

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`If we were to allow our young people to come to the fore more often, and if we were to implement more of their ideas - this country will overcome its difficult tasks and have a bright future in a much shorter period' - President Bharrat Jagdeo

PRESIDENT Bharrat Jagdeo is confident that the key to the nation overcoming its difficulties and possessing a bright future lies in the hands of the youths.

While declaring open a multi-purpose building on Mongrippa Hill, Bartica -built through the President's Youth Choice Initiative - the President yesterday lauded the passion of Guyana's youths to elevate themselves and their sincerity in this endeavour.

"If we were to allow our young people to come to the fore more often, and if we were to implement more of their ideas, this country will overcome its difficult tasks and have a bright future in a much shorter period," the President declared.

Holding the nation's youths in high esteem, the President reiterated their ability, and noted that they come with something that Guyana needs more of - "purity of heart". He also noted "the divisions among our young people do not run as deep as the other generations."

"Not only in Bartica; I see it in young people across Guyana," the President observed. He pointed out, however, that something goes wrong as they grow older.

According to the President, from travelling and interacting with youths in the ten administrative regions in Guyana, as Finance Minister and now as President, he has observed a tremendous desire of young people to do things for themselves and their high level of interest.

The construction of the G$24M two-storey concrete building with the involvement from the youths in the community is another manifestation of that desire, President Jagdeo stated.

"This represents the fruition of an idea that was crystallised some years ago when we met with young people," the President explained.

The President expressed the hope that within the building little flames will be ignited in young people to do things in Guyana.

He, however, noted that construction of a building will not solve the problems of young people.

"Their problems are infinitely wider than putting up a facility," the President noted.

President Jagdeo pointed to youths being concerned about education, finding a job after they are qualified, raising a family, building a home and having a safe physical environment.

The perception out there is "give the youths a ball and they are okay", but the President maintained the view that youths have the capacity to achieve much more and that was the reason for the President's Youth Choice Initiative giving youths a chance to come up with their own ideas, and getting them involved.

The multi-purpose building at Bartica will accommodate a Computer Centre on the upper floor and a Joinery Workshop on the lower floor. He lauded the initiative taken by community leaders in using the building also as a Counselling Centre for youths.

Noting that some of the key issues affecting youths are drug abuse, HIV/IDS, and teenaged pregnancies, he said that counselling in these areas would be helpful. He also called on religious organisations in the community to function as the second home to guide youths.

"The facility can serve that purpose and young people can come here when they err and can come find solace, a comforting word or a sympathetic ear," President Jagdeo added.

The President, who took time out to interact with members of the community and listen to their concerns, promised to ensure that the Education Minster Henry Jeffery visits and addresses the issues of concern in the education sector.

President Jagdeo said that it pains him that so many of our young people are unemployed but he noted that the solution will not pop out of the sky but requires unity, which will attract investors.

The President assured the youths that on the political front, the government is trying to build a new political culture where politics remains for the political season. Outside of that, all work will be focused on building the country.

For too long Guyana's politics have been characterised by bitterness, and if Guyanese can change that, then they can present an image to the rest of the world that can quickly sustain investment, the President added.

President Jagdeo declared the centre open while on a hectic schedule over the weekend which included a series of engagements with the business sector and members of the community in Essequibo, the annual luncheon with diplomats at Baganara, and later yesterday evening, the graduation exercises for bronze and silver awardees of the President's Youth Award Programme (PYARP) at the National Cultural Centre.

Mr. Odinga Lumumba, Presidential Advisor on Community Development, acknowledged Compton Jones, the contractor, for the excellent work done and hailed the project as one of the many dreams of the President for the youths of Guyana.

Young people must have an opportunity to manage things and take on responsibility early, the Presidential Advisor stated, spurning the Caribbean mentality which dictates that one has to be old to take on responsibility.

According to Mr. Lumumba, responsibility is the ability to manage things that are beneficial to the society. He recalled the President giving the youths of the community a charge, and praised them for accepting that challenge and being the engineers of the centre.

He pointed out that the young people of Bartica came together for a day and went to the drawing board and the result is now evident.

"The task ahead is to preserve it, maintain it and find other supporters and ensure you have the proper staff and security," he added and informed them that a management committee will be set up shortly comprising six business persons, six youths and the REO to effectively mange the institute.

Regional Chairman Jerald Joseph described the launching as a dream come true for the community, and Youth Worker, Judith David, M.P., also echoed the sentiments of the Regional Chairman and urged the youths to excel and make maximum use of the facility. She also encouraged adults to also make use of the services available.