Focusing on the Youth: 2013 is over, now what?

For how much longer will our youth be asked to dance for Fair Helen without Helen in turn providing for them and standing up for their rights.

For how much longer will our youth be asked to dance for Fair Helen without Helen in turn providing for them and standing up for their rights.

The year 2013 was a very indicative one for Saint Lucia in relation to the young people of this country. Many of the occurrences that involved the youth last year magnified the major issues that our society has been faced with for some time now.

Once again the ever-escalating crime rate resurfaced in 2013 and many of our young people were either victims of crime or were themselves the perpetrators.

The first murder casualty was 25 year old Danley Leon of Corinth, Gros Islet. The incident occurred on January 21, 2013 and Leon died as a result of hemorrhagic shock secondary to a stab wound. Among the other young casulaties last year was Chereece Williams of Monchy, who was found dead in her bedroom.  Homicides were not the only cause of death which triggered major concern on the island about our youth. Saint Lucia experienced a rise in suicides and attempted suicides last year, which raised the debate on the reasons why an individual take his or her own life.

One of the biggest stories of last year was in fact a suspected suicide. Chakadan Daniel, a 22 year old resident of Back Street in Micoud was allegedly found hanging in a jail cell at the Micoud Police Station. His family thinks otherwise.

Young people and substance abuse is of growing concern in some quarters although here again the authorities seem reluctant to offer any solutions. Alchohol abuse is rampant among our youth who are free to booze anywhere anytime. In fact the island’s youth rank among the highest in the world when it comes to alcohol and marijuan abuse. In the month of March, four students of the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College were caught smoking marijuana on the school compound at Morne Fortune, underscoring the growing trend of ganja smoking among students.

Another problem which has somewhat been ‘in the dark’ here in Saint Lucia – taboo even – is the issue of bullying. But last November, Molly Allen became known for performing her motherly duties and refusal to ‘just lay down and play dead’, after her daughter, a student of the Vide Boutielle Primary School, had become a victim of bullying by a classmate. She banged on doors, made the news and still there is no clear cut policy by Government or the Ministry of Education on bullying, including particularly cyber-bullying, which was one of the trending topics globally in 2013.

The lack of opportunities in sports again is a much debated and unfortunate reality that the youth of Saint Lucia are faced with. However, Digicel collaborated with Chelsea Football Club to continue their Kick Start Clinic, which allowed under-16 footballers to go through training, and the three ‘best’ were given a once in a lifetime opportunity to attend a one week training camp at the Digicel Academy in Barbados. A number of private concerns have also taken on the responsibility of youth sports camps. However sports in schools at all levels remain a challenge with the lack of facilities, training equipment and incentives a perennial problem.

The problem of unemployment has been intensified due to the current tough economic climate and the youth continue to be among the most vulnerable. The International Youth Foundation (IYF) convened a two-day regional meeting of business, government, NGOs and youth leaders from across the Caribbean to discuss both the challenges and opportunities facing the region’s youth as they seek to find employment and become fully integrated into the local economy and broader society. Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony opened the conference entitled “Investing in the Future: Empowering Young People” with his address on how to improve the lives of the region’s young prospects.

“We must give the youth real choices to get out of poverty; to remain proud and dignified; to embrace empowerment, enfranchisement, entrepreneurship and education, and to give back to their communities”.

Still many of our youth appear hopeless, rudder-less, even when it comes to reaching out for those tangible opportunities which in most instances appear to be invisible or the figment of the imagination. And so with 2013 behind us there appears to be little glimmer of hope for our youth in 2014.

Not much was said in the PM’s new year message that would inspire the young people of Saint Lucia to start jumping up for the good times, instead of twerking with Miley Cyrus or doing the six-thirty. Maybe it is time we stop hearing that ‘the youth is the future” and recognize that the young people’s time is now, for tomorrow or even “sometime in 2014” may already be too late.

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