–PM says, as Scouts Association celebrates 113 years of scouting
By Cassandra Khan
THE Scout Association of Guyana has been in existence for 113 years, and Prime Minister, Brigadier (Ret’d) Mark Phillips believes that scouting still offers valuable experiences to the Guyanese youth.
The Association’s anniversary coincided with its National Camp organised under the theme, “Building bonds and making memories”.
Prime Minister Phillips, who spoke at the camp’s opening ceremony on Saturday, said that scouting has been a long and proud tradition in Guyana. Based on reports, Guyana was the first in the Caribbean to have a scout association, the second in South America, and the fifth in the world.
The Prime Minister, however, contended that scouting must respond to the challenges of each successive generation if it is to be continued for all time.
“I’ve met many parents, and many of them worry about the lack of social interaction of their children. Many expressed concern that their children, unlike them, do not spend as much time enjoying outdoor games and adventure, but instead bury their head into video games and cell phones,” he said.
Prime Minister Phillips related that others have expressed alarm for the time children are spending on social media, and are concerned that children are withdrawing into themselves rather than being open to the world and human interaction.
“These are concerns which cannot be dismissed as a case of overprotective parents. The primary fear is that the time spent on digital devices is depriving our children of the type of rounded development that parents desire for them, and which parents feel is essential for their mental and physical well-being,” he said.
The Prime Minister added that from psychologists, they know that childhood experiences affect adult character, so it is for this reason that greater emphasis is being placed on making sure that children have a happy childhood.
With these concerns and considerations, he suggested that the camp also focus on “putting the fun back into childhood.”
A revitalised focus on fun, outdoor activities could relieve some of the pressures children grapple with, the Prime Minister reasoned as well.
And scouting, he believes, could help do just that; ably relieve youths of some of the pressures they grapple with.
Phillips related that scouting provides hope for young people, and brings them together to enjoy time in each other’s company, savour the outdoors, enjoy recreational activities, promote healthy habits, and inculcate values that would shape their outlook on life.
“Scouting promotes fellowship among scouts, fostering mutual respect for each other. It nurtures the talent of our young people, thereby helping them to realise their confidence and competence, self-reliance, self-worth social responsibility and respect,” the PM said.
Owing to those benefits, the Prime Minister is encouraging more people to get involved in the scouting association. Importantly, he pledged the government’s support for the work of the Association and challenged them to expand across all of the country’s ten administrative regions.
Chief Scout David Carto agrees with the Prime Minister, saying that as far as he could remember, scouting had always been an important part of his life.
“Scouting is the world’s oldest youth movement which has survived years, and most recently the pandemic that has affected the entire world. Our Association has survived the pandemic,” he said, adding that it has provided a platform for youths to express themselves and learn. And, other speakers also addressed the value of scouting.
Director of Youth at the Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Sports Suresh Singh said that scouts could attest that through scouting, they have built life skills that have changed the way they think, the way they go about life, and the way that they approach life.
Singh related that it helps with critical thinking and problem-solving, teaches youths responsibility, and builds their confidence.
Chief Commissioner Andrew Ramcharitar was heartened to witness numerous scouts and leaders at the event, given the decline in the number of scouts during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He said that it is now his dream to see a scout group in every school in Guyana.