Jamaica is a small island blessed with a rich cultural heritage and some of the most talented people around the world. “Jamaica No Problem” is a slogan that is on many marketing ventures to promote our country as a tourist destination. But, is this the reality for many Jamaican youth? We struggle with myriad of issues, including crime and violence, high levels of illiteracy, unemployment and an ailing economy which is often linked to a lifespan of borrowing by different administration.
On any given day, in a lower income community, the activities are the same — young men on the street with seemingly very little constructive activities of interest to their engagement. Some of these men are often the same ones who become criminal elements in society. These men are the product of several generations of untapped talents that have been neglected and left to waste. The majority of them have no skills and either failed to meet the requirements for higher learning or stopped halfway in high schools. Many will argue that one is responsible for their own education, but I believe there are several factors that should be considered.
With little or no education it is extremely difficult for these men to secure a job, provide for their family, and gain the respect of others. As a result they become alienated, often finding solace, comfort and belonging in informal groups that often mature into to criminal or corner gangs.
Anti-Crime bills, enactment of state of emergency and larger penitentiary facilities are hardly the most appropriate responses to effectively deal with these problems. Short-term programmes with enormous budgets must stop. In many cases the results can hardly be measured and the programmes are not sustainable.
We need a cooperative approach so solve our issues. It is imperative to understand that Jamaica it not beyond repair, we just need to invest our energies and converge on our many ideas. Such a strategy must place young people at the centre. Nonetheless, we must all play our part.
Parents should spend more time in the development of their child. No longer can we have child attending school and the child’s teacher has never seen the parent.
While the government is looking at business creation as an avenue to address unemployment more needs to be done in equipping young entrepreneurs with the skills needed to be successful. This includes training in customer service, accounting, product/service and general management skills.
Understandably, skills development is vital, but the HEART TRUST NTA, the national training agency, needs to be rebranded from an institution for high school dropouts to a technical institutions offering world class training to it graduates.
The National Youth Service program should be expanded. Participants must be guided in the development of a clear career strategy. It not enough to have unattached youth at a camp for one month and then send them to work for six months. What happens after the six months? Learning cannot take place with out reinforcement and follow-ups.
The truth is that we have lost many youth who could have made a positive impact in their communities. Without any meaningful and sustainable intervention at the community level, our fears will just continue to materialize. It is not about political persuasion, but the people of Jamaica that is getting the dirty water from the people playing at the top of the stream.