The right drive for youth
HEARING FROM BARBADIAN youths themselves was a high point for me last week by way of two fora: the Lower House of Parliament that debated the long-awaited National Youth Policy on Tuesday, and the screening of the documentary Youth Voices – What Are We Fighting For? in commemoration of International Day For The Eradication Of Poverty last Wednesday.
I haven’t been made privy to the National Youth Policy’s final document, but, based on Minister of Family, Youth, Sports and Culture Stephen Lashley’s introduction to the House last Tuesday, it encompasses issues of unemployment, the rights of youth and children, mentorship, parenting, business, sport and culture.
It is good that, for once, there has been a concise development plan for the youth that doesn’t feature the usual preoccupation with youthful deviance. Furthermore, I’ve seen in Barbados many youths failing to reach the pinnacle of their God-given talents, be it in sport, music, dance, fashion or cooking.
Of course, our youths are given the initial encouragement to go forth and conquer, only to realize later they can only realistically go so far; and then they have to do exactly what their parents and probably grandparents did: put the talent aside and find a practical way to make ends meet.
And once these obviously frustrated youths start having children, the challenge to survive is magnified and they now become entrenched in some run-of-the-mill, eight-to-four, glorified version of slavery, which they will probably have to remain in until retirement or death, whichever comes first. Hopefully, the children will do better than they, and be of some assistance by then!
Then we wonder why some youths become drug lords and why other youths in slightly older bodies gamble away their wages on Fridays?
But the minister seemed buoyed by the hope of “victory” for our young people last Tuesday.
“I think it is a tremendous tribute, not to the Government . . . but to young men and women of Barbados who would have come on board and constructed, with the assistance of the Government, a progressive National Youth Policy,” he told the Chamber.
“We have to give them credit, because were it not for the young people of Barbados coming on board and constructing this policy, we would not have it here today. Therefore, it is a victory, as far as I’m concerned, for the young people in Barbados, many of whom are vilified wrongfully, misunderstood and not listened to,” he added.
I look forward to the policy’s passage in the Upper and Lower House, and to the screening on local television of the documentary prepared by youths of the Israel Lovell Foundation for the United Nations Development Programme.
I also live in the hope that one day the average Barbadian youth’s dream won’t hinge on whether he or she passes for an older secondary school or plays on a national team. There has to be more to propel each and every Barbadian from his youth onwards, and if this National Youth Policy begins to do that, all will not be lost.
OVER THE LAST few days I also realized, not for the first time, that poor service and condescension are gradually becoming hallmarks in modern Barbadian society.
For example, I entered a commercial bank to make what some might consider an unlikely query: namely, whether the currency of our main trading partner Trinidad and Tobago could be exchanged for local dollars.
The reception I got left me feeling that Trini currency was akin to garbage; there was no explanation by any of the tellers, except for a terse comment: “None of the commercial banks change it. Try the Central Bank.”
Upon trying the Central Bank of Barbados, I was informed that the currency of our Eastern Caribbean neighbours could be exchanged here, but as for T&T, I would have to “ask our CARICOM Heads”.
Is this the type of service that we want to perpetuate in this country? Is this the condescending way we deal with the currency of a Caribbean neighbour?
Not all of us work in the financial sector; so certain aspects related to foreign exchange may not be universal knowledge, I dare say. Furthermore, would we wish others in the Caribbean or beyond to treat our currency this way?
I’ve had Barbadian money exchanged in the heart of London, and didn’t feel as if what I was offering in exchange for the mighty pound sterling was dirty.
It was sad to witness in Barbados, which is still a developing country blessed with prosperity but saddled with debt, an attitude that smacks of acute condescension toward our neighbours’ money.
• Ricky Jordan is an Associate Editor of THE NATION.