Friday 29th April, 2005


Joel Primus

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Joel Primus

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An agenda for youth

How important is youth development in the national trust? To date, as a society, have we recorded the weight of youth impact on our society, be it positive or negative?

What is even more compelling is the fact that youth now account for approximately 65 per cent of the population.

By youth we refer to those individuals between the ages 12 to 29 years who are becoming independent of parents and learning to master the biological, psychological, political, economic and social changes associated with this period of transition (National Youth Policy).

Having taken note of our constituents, we will realise that a greater emphasis is required by the powers that be in the realisation of systematic youth development.

This is said against the backdrop of a seeming upsurge of negative youth impact on our society. This, we should add, is as a result of the system being unable to plug loopholes, which creates the risk environment. We must, as a society, develop mechanisms that open as many positive doors as possible for our youth to direct their energy.

Sadly, we the youth of today would have taken serious note of the gang warfare on the Brian Lara Promenade, one of many recent instances involving youth in crime. This is a situation for which all systems must work assiduously to curtail, as some of our youth in their prime seem to be on a path of irreparable self and societal destruction.

Additionally, we have seen where a UWI student, being unable to cope with the pressures of life, committed suicide on the St Augustine Campus.

What about other youth in our midst who have suffered and continue to suffer abuse and neglect?

We are well aware of the high school dropouts, juvenile delinquency, unscrupulous sexual activities, and drug situation amongst the teenage population.

Furthermore, our many organisations can interpret and provide information on a multiplicity of uncanny youth involvement in risky behaviour, which has far-reaching implications for their private/individual and national development.

The PNM National Youth League wishes to register its concern on the matter of youth development, with particular reference to T&T as a developing society. We wish to make a statement that distinguishes ours from that of society.

We wish to categorically state that the problems of society and the topic at hand—youth—is not a political or governmental problem. It is a societal problem for which we all have to take some communal responsibility. A problem for which the resolution can be to our profit or detriment, depending on our treatment with the current wave of messages and signals.

It is a concern which transcends the everyday paranoia of the next generation syndrome, which speaks to the quasi-development of youth, as every Tom and Jerry paint a glorious picture of youth as the future, but in essence refuse to actionise their speechifying.

Many are the frustrations of youth organisations and leaders alike as they pursue avenues for the advancement of their membership so as to fully utilise or activate a common principle which seeks to interpret in a meaningful and holistic manner the role of youth.

The PNM National Youth League is fully aware that in many quarters of our society leaders and others in authority are unaware of and naive to the extent of ignorance about the youth situation in T&T.

Moreover, it is felt that the authorities of whom much is required in addressing youth development can be likened to virgins without lamps.

It is against this backdrop that we place into focus the significance of issues such as increasing poverty, drug abuse, HIV/Aids, violence, child abuse, crime, teenage pregnancy, street children, and mental disabilities as some of the serious challenge facing youth.

Youth require urgent attention and are in dire need of a listening ear and a sense of hope.

What role, if any, can the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs play?

We believe that the ministry would do well to inform the national community of its vision for youth, its programmes of activities and the impact on the youth community. To this end we will be liaising with the ministry to bring such information to readers in future articles.

Additionally, it would be in the interest of all to establish in the mind of the citizenry the measurability and assessment mechanism available to gauge results and value for money when making an investment in the youth capital of our country.

Furthermore, as one explores the youth challenge in T&T, the realisation is that a multiplicity of factors are involved and contribute to the youth expression of today being a negative one.

It is of paramount importance that attention be placed on issues such as education, the school system, unemployment/underemployment, recreational activities, gender relations and HIV/Aids as critical factors.

We believe that in many respects our system is incapacitated and unable to facilitate the meaningful and practical development of youth.

As such, in the main, the system contributes to the sundry negative impacts by its inability to merge the diversities of youth. Our Chambers, churches, businesses need to be incorporated in a holistic approach.

However, T&T needs the creation of innovative initiatives that seek to contribute to the enhancement of youth as present and future capital through mutually beneficial participation in service and the exposure to life-learning experiences.

The PNM youth membership believes that an enhanced citizen status of young people will only be useful if youth are of the impression that they can participate meaningfully in the political, social and economic life of the country, in line with the objectives of national development towards a 2020 vision.

We commend the Government on its vast programme of training, retraining and education—for which millions are invested—as a representation of giving priority to youth development.

However, we call for a clearer and articulated agenda towards youth affairs, given the volatile youth situation.

Our country would do well to have all sectors of the society practise what is preached by letting go and letting youth be the future from which the present is formed.

Contact NYL with comments at [email protected] or Editorial Committee, National Youth League, Balisier House, #1 Tranquillity St, Port-of-Spain.

Joel Primus is chairman of the PNM’s National Youth League





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