Op-Ed | The disenfranchised youth


– creates a clogged-up society with outlets that are not good

By Margaret Burke

PRESIDENT David Granger takes hold of every opportunity to emphasise the importance of empowering youth in Guyana. He feels that it is absolutely necessary if the country is to enjoy sustained development in every aspect of life.

He posited that the young people of the nation cannot be ignored; instead, opportunities which involves training and participation in decision-making should be of paramount importance. Adding that over 50 per cent of Guyana’s citizens are young – between ages 15 and 24, he noted that it would be perilous to exempt them from nation-building.

The President painted a picture of what the youth in Guyana should be geared to take over – the largest country in the Caribbean, ‘beautiful and bountiful’ in its vastness. Calling it our natural patrimony, he posited that the biodiversity and ecosystems must be ‘protected’ and not ‘destroyed.’

“We inherited from our forefathers and we must pass it on to you (young people), who will inherit this land and we must not destroy it; and when you get it you must not destroy it but protect it and pass it on to your children too,” President Granger said.

Education is everything
Studies have shown that insufficient training of young people in any part of the world could engender challenges in every aspect of life. Therefore programmes aimed at empowering and skills-building will serve to give equity and close socioeconomic gaps.
Consideration must therefore be given to the disadvantaged youth who face challenges of continuing poverty, inequality, as well as other socio-economic influences. Youth employment or unemployment, skills training and entrepreneurial knowledge, apprenticeship programmes, mentoring and financial literacy are just some of what should be kept in mind. The cultural aspect of their lives are also very important, so there must also be a vision for this.

Strengthening the resilience of young people will help prepare them to handle the opportunities which are being positioned before them today. It is not just about oil and gas, there are a great many associated job openings coming directly and indirectly out of that particular industry. However, these young people must be prepared to take full advantage of available opportunities. They must be enabled or encouraged to use their initiatives and not just hope for or depend on government or any other agency for jobs. The fact is that entrepreneurship; some as innovative enterprises can help young people to embrace the future with greater confidence that a bright future is just around the corner.

Admirable leadership
It is always admirable to observe leaders engaging young people in heart-to-heart discussions on matters of critical importance – where they make young people feel hopeful. Guyana, like many other nations across the globe have challenges with their young people which are thankfully being addressed at this time.

President Granger continues to emphasise the need for increased investment of time and resources in young people as a key to unlock the doors of good opportunities for them. There should also be the inclusion of quality education from nursery to secondary, as well as tertiary.

“We have to bequeath this country to you – you have to inherit this country… It is imperative therefore that you should be afforded every opportunity to participate in decision-making and in determining how your communities and how the country should be administered. You are the future,” he posited.

The President encouraged that training and empowerment must be imperative for them to become good leaders, adding, “It will be reckless for the older folks to expect young people to lead simply by trial and error. You can learn only when the State strengthens the foundation by the creation of employment, empowerment and most of all equality, so that you can see one another as equal citizens and this is the foundation that will support and sustain your leadership.”

He is hopeful that there would be, “… a generation of entrepreneurs, of pioneers who seek and succeed in finding new economic opportunities.”
The Sustainable Livelihood Entrepreneurial Development (SLED); the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) and the Guyana Youth Corps (GYC) were highlighted as three of the main training agencies through which these young people are being empowered ‘to succeed,’

So far, systematic findings have been revealing that these programmes are working. The responses continue to be good and it is becoming more and more obvious that the nation can expect to have a bright future, based on the investments they are currently making in young people. Many of the socio-economic issues facing the country today will not be gone, like with a magic wand, but with time and good investment there is hope.

“No one is born a good citizen; no nation is born a democracy. Rather, both are processes that continue to evolve over a lifetime. Young people must be included from birth. A society that cuts off from its youth severs its lifeline,” Mr. Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, more than two decades ago and President Granger, in his address saw it fit to mention this as well.