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ALL AH WE IS ONE: Shattered dreams

Tennyson Joseph, [email protected]

ALL AH WE IS ONE: Shattered dreams

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IT HAS NOW BECOME standard practice for Government officials to become very defensive when any association is made between the decline in the numbers of young people accessing tertiary education, and the growing incidence of thoughtless gun crimes and general lawlessness, both of which have been dominating the news in Barbados in the past few days.

It can be readily agreed that the explanations for the current burst in gun crime are complex and multi-faceted and cannot be reduced to a single variable, as ably argued by criminalist Yolande Forde in the last SUNDAY SUN.

However, it does not help the official cause when denial becomes the standard response to public concerns that the failure of large sections of Barbadian youth to access tertiary education is wreaking havoc on the society.

It cannot be a trivial social issue when, according to University of the West Indies (UWI) officials, out of 2 478 applicants who were accepted into the university, only 1 071 have been able to take the offer. At a social development level, this speaks to a huge societal demand which is not being met, and at a human-personal level it tells a tale of shattered dreams, frustration, disillusion, which in talented and ambitious young people often translates into anger, resentment, hopelessness and the rejection of the social values to which normal society insists that they should adhere.

The act of applying for entry into university by hundreds of young people represents a demonstration of their hopeful expectation that the system will yield to their dreams of higher education, and a better future. It is foolhardy, and indeed reckless, to assume that the dreams of hundreds of young persons can be annually shattered and this is “all right” and will have no social consequences.

It is equally delusional to reduce the shootings which have been taking place in Barbados by 17- and 19-year-olds to “gun crimes” and youth lawlessness. To do so is to ignore the extent to which these actions point to the total rejection of societal values, the callous disrespect for human life, and the collapse of the normal socialisation processes which would generally channel the youth to more societally acceptable forms of behaviour.

The brazen firing of high-calibre weapons by young boys in large crowds and in closely-knit communities, and the public execution of civilians in full view of innocent bystanders, is an urgent societal problem that cannot be separated from a growing sense of hopelessness among young people.

It helps no one to deny the evidence of shattered dreams amongst Barbadian youth. The reduction of student numbers at UWI cannot be “no problem”, and the response to Barbadian senseless murders is not to quote regional homicide statistics.

If education is costly, with each new murder, we may soon get a chance to assess the cost of ignorance.

•Tennyson Joseph is a political scientist at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, specialising in regional affairs. Email: [email protected]