By Sherod Duncan
WE grew up with the refrain ‘youths are the future’. It was to become a “fleeting illusion to be pursued but never attained”, to turn a quote. Our future never became the present. I say, YOUTHS are the NOW!
There is a sense among young people of marginalization. Of unfulfilled promises. We voted like a boss with utopian hopes to correct our course but that is as far as the simile was to be explicated.
The United Nations Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, Jayathma Wickramanayake, in January stated, “Today our world is home to the largest youth population ever in history. There are currently 1.8 billion people around the globe between the ages of 10 and 24 and this number is expected to grow.”
“Over the next 13 years, almost 2 billion young people will become part of the world’s youth cohort. In most developing countries, children and adolescents already make up the majority of the population.”
In Guyana, the 2012 census gives an indication of our population size at 746,955; our population under 40 years of age – 529,566 (70.89%), over 60 years of age: 59,832 (8%). Fortunately or unfortunately, young people under 40 care less about the heroics of our founding fathers. The question is, ‘What have you done for me lately?’
The coming battles at the ballot box will be less about political parties and those allied allegiances and more about a generational trajectory and ideology.
The recent David Granger “youth luncheon” and then the establishment of the Guyana Youth Service are encouraging signs, first steps in the right direction.
A concern I had raised as early as 2016 was that too many programs which are engineered to benefit youths were scattered and shrouded throughout the various Ministries and departments.
The Youth Service initiative will seek to remedy that. That being said, like the Guyana Youth and Student Movement’s (GYSM) call in early 2017, I too would like to see a Ministry of Youth, led by a competent young person.
Youths can lead. I continue to be tremendously impressed with the multitude of young people all over our country and region, making a positive difference on a daily basis. These are young people who are not waiting for a handout by a Government or an NGO but who are creating the present and future that they want; with their own hands.
As a young activist said in a social media post “Guyana needs now, more than anything, a youth population that understands the times and can respond confidently and eruditely to developing solutions to combat the issues we face which need direct attention. Such issues include joblessness, ignorance, crime, poverty, idleness, among other things.”
Agreed. The representation and participation of youths locally needs depth and breadth. All issues and options are on the table, now more than ever. Our failures of the past will pale in comparison if we squander the macro opportunities presenting themselves, especially those with our offshore discoveries.
Young Guyanese Collin Constantine, a PhD student in Economics at Kingston University, in his essay, The New Deal: Will Guyana’s recent oil find breed conflict or cohesion?” published in Business Guyana argues, for instance, “The recent oil discovery puts Guyana at a crossroads – do we take a decisive break from the past or promote a more egalitarian society or do we deepen the dividing lines?”
“We must transparently and honestly discuss initial socio-economic conditions and how these place some groups in a more advantageous position vis-à-vis the oil economy. Failure to appreciate unequal initial conditions ensures that policy reinforces these and that the oil economy sows seeds of conflict.
By unequal initial conditions I mean high concentration of top incomes (e.g. richest 10%), ethnic & gender income inequality, unequal ethnic distribution in the public and private sectors, unequal access to quality education and political power.” Youths must reposition themselves.
In the words of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth, “There is no better fight than the struggle for the world we want.” We are tired hearing youths are the future. A future that is always elusive. You need the job to get experience and experience to get the job. Always shackled by youth.
Too young, too much youthful ambition, too bold, too quiet, too outspoken, over qualified, under qualified, always the bridesmaid never the bride. But there is an awakening among our young people. Local Government Elections in November could be the first statement on this.