– top priorities of gov’t, President Granger tells Linden youth summit
By Vanessa Braithwaite
YOUTHS were reassured that during the decade of development, which is the brainchild of President David Granger, the country will undergo massive transformation in all major sectors.
Significant attention will be given to the National Youth Policy, which focusses on four main pillars – namely education, equality, empowerment and employment.
Education, however, will be priority since every other pillar depends on an educated nation. While the government would have plugged more than $170B into education since 2015, President Granger described this investment as just a tip of the iceberg, as to what will be rolled out from 2020 to 2030.
The Head of State was at the time addressing hundreds of youths in Linden who participated in the inaugural annual Youth Empowerment Summit (YES), organised by the Youth Forward Movement (YFM).
These youths, who representing various sectors and organisations in society, were given a chance to voice their issues and concerns, with the President and several members of his Cabinet, including Minister of State, Dawn Hastings-Williams; Minister of Natural Resources, Raphael Trotman; Minister with Responsibility for Culture, Youth and Sport, George Norton; Minister of Public Telecommunications, Catherine Hughes; and Ministers within the Ministries of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs and Agriculture, Valarie Garrido-Lowe and Valarie Patterson-Yearwood.
President Granger applauded the brainchild of the Summit, Region 10 Member of Parliament, Jermaine Figueira, for initiating such a movement, which he described as a very important one that must be replicated in every town.
Youths, he said, are vital to this nation and will become the muscle and brain that will guide Guyana forward and must benefit from every opportunity that will enable them to become phenomenal leaders of tomorrow.
“This is why this forum is very important. It is not for entertainment, it is not a cake show; it is helping you to make decisions. Take this model into the other towns, so that other young people could understand what YFM means. This YFM is not the property of Linden, take it and create a movement that will sweep this whole country. Let young people rise to the fore and take control of their destiny,” the President said.
Encapsulating on the National Youth Policy, President Granger said it will ensure that youths are united, trained, safe, happy, healthy and equally involved in the decision-making process, while enjoying equal access to opportunities.
His government is committed to this, he said, and has already started the trajectory of nationwide improvement in the education sector, by ensuring that many children get to school through the Public Education Transportation System ((PETS) and are fed when they get there, through the Public Education Nutrition Service (PENS). Performance, particularly in the hinterland regions, has improved because of the provision of Internet services in these schools as well.
“Education is top priority for me. It is essential if you are going to seek employment or be self-employed. It is essential if you are going to be empowered. It is essential if you are going to demand your place as equal citizens in this country,” he posited.
President Granger said his government is creating a level playing field for all Guyanese through the regionalisation movement, which is empowering every region to have available, decentralised services.
Many of these youths are benefitting from these services. The Linden Enterprise Network (LEN) has been helping to empower youths through business loans. “Our Government provided a $155M to restart LEN and since then, it has reimbursed 570 loans worth more than $326M over the past four years… this is the way to go, to give young people the tools so that you could employ yourselves and achieve things you want to achieve in life, by going into business and some form of entrepreneurship.”
In addition to LEN, the government has initiated other services to create jobs for youths such as the Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED), Hinterland Employment Youth Service (HEYS) and Micro and Small Business Development Scheme. The President urged youths to take up these opportunities now since it is to prepare and empower them to become the future leaders of tomorrow.
“My friends, we hear your voices, we here what you are saying. We have paid attention; we have come up here in our numbers. We hear what is being said in the villages and the rural areas. We hear what is being said in the neighbourhoods. We hear what is being said in the National Assembly, we listen to you and we will pay attention to you because we have to pass this country over to you, we are only trustees, we don’t own this. We hold this country in trust, to pass it on to you and you have to be prepared to accept this request, this legacy.”
Some of the concerns and issues raised by the youths in their presentations were the need for copyright laws to protect artistes and persons involved in the entertainment industry.
“Mr. President, it is hard to be a patriot when we don’t have copyright; it is hard to be a patriot when we are not making money off of our talent and you know that we have talent, so I beg you Mr. President, please give us copyright and we are going to give you royalties,” Singer Alabama petitioned the President.
Dr. Deleana Anderson of the Linden Hospital Complex highlighted the challenges of working under conditions that made it difficult to serve effectively. The positive, however, she stressed outweighs the negatives and related that over recent years, there has been an increase in drugs available and the standard of healthcare offered to residents. Very soon, the hospital will be equipped with a dialysis machine and a CT scan department which she deemed a tremendous boost.
Coach Lindley Langhorne called for the training of teachers and coaches in the areas of physical education and specialised sports, the provision of sports facilities in every community and the lighting of already-established facilities. Langhorne, however, commended the administration for the strides made in improvement of sport over the last few years, more particularly with the construction of a state-of-the-art synthetic track.
Other presentations were made on education, societal changes, overcoming challenges, entrepreneurship and arts and culture.
Minister Catherine Hughes gave a detailed presentation on the strides made in the telecommunications sector over the last three years and how scores of Linden youths would have benefitted from training in ICT and several communities were equipped with ICT hubs.
She urged the youths to start thinking about how they will maximise on the massive transformation the country will experience in the area of technology, which will create a domino effect in other sectors such as agriculture and education.
Giving an overview of the summit and the Youth Forward Movement, was MP Figueira, who said it was held on the belief that decisions made and those that will be made, will have the greatest impact on our youth.
“As such, we have created a platform for our young people to hear directly from the leadership of President David Authur Granger, his ministers of the government; what is it they have in store for Guyana but equally important, that they have provided a space for our young people to also exchange their thoughts and their ideas on the Guyana that they would want to inherit,” he posited.
Figueira also called for the realisation of a University of Guyana Campus in Linden, the continuation of the discussion in relation to the legalisation of marijuana and the continuous support for athletes and sports associations.
The programme also included rich cultural performances such as dances and spoken word poetry and was followed by a cocktail reception, where the youths were further given the opportunity to interact and engage with President Granger and his ministers.