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Provide alternatives to idling

Taken from the Saturday Sun of NOVEMBER 7, 2015.

The direction, or lack of direction, of too many of this country’s young men has become a constant cry from various public speakers. Citizens, from those in high office to the social commentators and even the callers to the talk-radio, are all worried that our young men are falling short. There is genuine pain in the voices raised in concern.

The increasing number of young men going before the law courts and ending up in Dodds Prison is alarming; and equally troubling are the numbers of those murdered or wounded by criminal violence. Then there are those who from dawn until way past dusk can be found at liming spots across the island often ending up being involved in disreputable behaviours and activities. They often copy the worst of ghetto life from elsewhere and environments that are different from Barbados.

We have heard the lament about boys’ poor academic performance highlighted from as early as primary school, with many going on only to be frustrated with their secondary school education. They fail to make the best use of the variety of available opportunities, instead getting locked into subcultures that often catapult them into a life of lawlessness. So, yes, there is a problem.We speak about it, we have pinpointed the problems, but too few solutions have been instituted to turn around the situation.

Until the economy is firing on all cylinders and jobs, particularly those not requiring specific certification and/or trades, are readily available, we will have a problem. We must acknowledge that the illegal drugs business supports a growing informal economy, which attracts a lot of young men.We also need to appreciate that the traditional opinion leaders – politicians, clergy, lawyers, policemen and teachers – hold little or no sway over these young men. They simply want to be copycats of the dons who control turf. The instant nature of social media sometimes
helps to worsen the situation.

We must therefore cater to their legitimate interests, particularly in the leisure industry – sports, music, fashion. We must re-examine secondary and postsecondary education to ensure there are relevant training programmes which embrace the goals and desires of these young men and for which there is a commercial demand.

It would be a good thing for the relevant authorities to turn to the Pinelands Creative Workshop to undertake a national initiative in all the trouble spots. The successes and knowledge of Mr Rodney Grant and the Pinelands non-governmental organisation suggest that they can have a positive impact.

But we must not throw up our hands in despair or ignore these young people as if they are not there. Such an approach can only create a greater divide and build resentment, which will bring physical, financial and emotional problems.

So let us connect with all our young people by providing meaningful opportunities, rather than just condemning them.

Saturday Sun of NOVEMBER 7 2015

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