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Friday, April 21, 2006 




COMMENTARY

Are Caribbean Youth in a Crisis?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Three newspapers in three different Caribbean countries recently carried reports about the challenges that youth in the Caribbean face, each basically making observations, which, with few exceptions, basically notes identical concerns.

Cayman Net News notes failure at school, increase in the misuse of drugs and alcohol, adolescent crime, and road accidents.

It further observes the kind of lavish lifestyles of kids from affluent homes, and stresses the need for teenagers to be equipped to compete in this competitive world as issues of concern.

The Trinidad and Tobago Express mentions the need for career guidance for students at the Secondary Entrance Assessment level to deal with unemployment among the youth, which stands at 12.1 percent in the 20-24 age group. The report goes on to say that at school, children do not have a career in mind even at the ages of 15 and 16 years, and some leave not knowing which career they would like to pursue.

It is suggested that knowledge of careers should begin at the assessment level for high school, so that the youth could enter the system more focused, since students even did not understand why they had to do certain subjects, or what benefit it would be to them.

The Jamaica Gleaner discusses the issue of whether the youth were ready for the workplace. It states that secondary and tertiary graduates often had limited job opportunities, and mentions a university lecturer as saying that at the workplace, there is a reduced number of good quality employees because of the kind of graduates being recruited.

There is the further observation by a managing director of a company, that graduates entering the workplace are not mentally ready to become good employees, even though they may be academically qualified. Their interpersonal and communication skills are not developed, and they do not know how to relate to their superiors.

Other concerns noted in the report were a lack of initiative, responsibility and morals, and that young employees lacked the capacity to think beyond their work roles, and were driven primarily by the monetary reward from the job. Can we then say, then, that Caribbean youth are experiencing a severe crisis?My view is that they most certainly are. This has to do in part with the emergence of a new kind of Caribbean society which has left adults behind. This is because the average Caribbean adult, particularly the male, is either on drugs, is an alcoholic, has not mentally matured, and this is seen in the play boy image he displays in dealing with the opposite sex.

This means that even if such a person has a nuclear family, he is hardly at home to make a difference to the teenagers, in terms of representing positive values which the young could incorporate in their behaviour.

Again, the Caribbean adult, because of the new demands of the workplace, and the competitiveness of Caribbean society, is busy in his later adult years trying to earn a qualification, or additional credentials, because the workplace is requiring more qualified people. Time is therefore spent studying programmes which should have been done in the early adult years, which were spent irresponsibly.

The attention that should have been given to the young at home was therefore lacking. We therefore have a different kind of Caribbean youth that has grown up without proper knowledge of appropriate values, and therefore with no context in which to anchor his or her behaviour.
Resistance and rebelliousness therefore replace good and proper values.

Furthermore, Caribbean society’s heroes have become the drug lords, or dons, the gunman, or the DJ, who are associated with quick money. Even youths from affluent homes take on this gangster culture, which is promoted by some Caribbean performing artistes, the content of whose songs leaves much to be desired. And so is the vulgar display of performances at various concerts.

These factors act as a deterrent to any serious attitude by the young towards school work, or even if some of them succeed, they are still ingrained with the dance hall culture. Many of the performers themselves are not well educated, and so present an image of fun, quick bucks, the latest dress styles, and cars.

This is where the irresponsibility, not yet mentally ready for the workplace, and poor communication and interpersonal skills have their origin. The education the youth receive has not countered these lower, short lived cultural practices.
Coupled with this is the quality of education that the youth receive from some of the institutions they attend. Many of these institutions do not expose the young to good and proper knowledge, the best that has been thought and taught, and therefore which has lasting value. Some of those who deliver the knowledge at these institutions were themselves not properly taught.

Students are therefore not exposed to high culture, but to knowledge that is intellectually feeble. This is again why they display the kind of behaviours mentioned by the three newspapers. Students leave some of these institutions with personalities that are not fully developed, and without a core of ethical principles on which to base and reinforce their conduct.

In this sense, then, Caribbean youth are definitely in crisis, which is being perpetuated by a Caribbean society which in many instances is unsure of itself, lacking in cultural cohesion, and with political, social and legal institutions which are not trusted, and which, in many instances, are regarded as suspect by the minority of decent citizens who, despite everything else, rise above the fray.
It is only when the society undergoes fundamental change in its morals and mores, and allows positive values to permeate throughout our various institutions, including our education system, will a new human person emerge with the kind of desirable qualities that are the hall mark of good citizenship.

Our youth will then become the products fit to contribute positively to this new society, as well as fit to live with.

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