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Tuesday, June 27, 2006 

PM Spencer calls for new focus on youth
Tuesday June 27 2006

by Patricia Campbell

There is increasing regional focus on incidents of juvenile delinquency in the society. The matter was highlighted last week, when OECS heads of government and regional officials met in St. Kitts.

OECS Chairman, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer has identified the misbehaviour of young people as a key issue requiring the attention of the OECS. “It has moved from a state of ‘your neighbour’s house is on fire,’ to one where ‘the house is on fire’ everywhere,” he told his regional colleagues, pointing out that this problem was not limited to any single state in the region.
Over the last year, the issue of delinquency has become topical as a matter of concern in Antigua & Barbuda, spurred on by escalating reports of violence in the schools and criminal behaviour perpetrated by school-aged children and young adults.

Pointing out that two-thirds of the region’s population is below the age of 30, Prime Minister Spencer called on the heads of government to, in the immediate future, address the problem of anti-social behaviour among young people.

“Our young people are the custodians of our society and the trustees of prosperity for future generations. The present challenges facing our youth, if not addressed on a coherent, co-ordinated basis, will present a bleak future for us all,” he said.

“The youth of our nations can play important roles, in our development, if provided with the right tools, the learning and empowerment to employ those tools and a supportive environment in which to use them.”

He has called on the church, the business community, educational institutions and families to work with the government to tackle this problem by ensuring that “young people are positively utilised to maintain social and economic stability and cohesion in the sub-region.”

With similar goals in mind, the government created a National Youth Task Force in February. The task force is chaired by Director of Youth Cleon Athill. In May, it completed a series of public consultations on issues related to youth and is currently in the process of formulating a national youth policy for Antigua & Barbuda.

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