Letters & Opinion, Trading Views

St. Lucian Youth – Waiting To Exhale

THE depth of frustration simmering amongst young persons in the society seems to finally hit home for some, as a recent televised Talk show, saw host Rick Wayne inviting two young men to share their thoughts on many issues of national concern, among them youth facing an uncertain future.

The shock which has been expressed all week on other radio shows highlighting certain individuals in particular who keep referencing an analogy made during the discussion, smacks of insincerity and attempts to digress once more from the main facts. The concerns should be that the youth are feeling disconnected and hopeless in this country. Clearly they are singing from a different hymnal because when the politicians speak, Abetta Country gets the impression that pretty much all is well with the youth, and the government is doing such a wonderful job of meeting all their needs, among them education, social support and employment.

Our politicians are the people who hog the air–time and they are the ones most likely to convince the public of their version of the truth. It was refreshing indeed to hear young people articulate their thoughts on a platform of this nature on the more serious issues that young people would refrain from commenting on.

Yet overall their disclosures waere disturbing and disheartening. Saint Lucian youth have every right to feel a part of the country’s pathways to human progress, human development, and human well-being. If opportunities to a productive future cannot actualize, then clearly this most basic and critical socio–cultural/political contract is undoubtedly broken in St. Lucia. The situation is more so dire because approximately 40% of St. Lucia’s population is comprised of young people between the ages of 15 and 35 years.

Youth frustration anywhere around the globe makes for a very volatile environment and potentially triggers ugly consequences, among them crime, violence, and revolution fervour.

Chloe Mulderig who wrote on the subject of youth frustration and the Arab Spring also commented on the breakdown of confidence between the state and the people noting that the most basic of societal contracts—that children will one day grow up, begin to contribute productively to society, and then raise families of their own—has been broken for an entire generation of youth in the Arab world trapped in a liminal period often referred to as “waithood.”

This week Abetta Country poses the question: are Saint Lucia’s Youth also trapped in a period of “waithood” and if so, what are the fall outs and what is their feeling about it? We all saw what the Arab Spring did, more than half–way round the world away from here.

Perhaps we should break it down. The age of adult suffrage is 18. This is also the perceived age of independence. How many young people at age 18, can actually obtain employment? Even the Sir Arthur Lewis graduates now have to wait a good two to five years to find steady employment. How about getting off to one’s first apartment, as we say, leaving the nest, or looking forward to bigger commitments such as further education, car loans and mortgages?

What this amounts to in essence (again borrowing from the perspectives of Mulderig), is “the inability of youth to achieve adulthood, held back by governments and markets that stall youth engagement”. Another reality that needs to be exposed at the highest level is that many young males and females begin having children before they have obtained their first jobs ever. Unemployed youth with kids is a fact.

Dire socio–economic circumstances have a way of distorting rational thinking and we need our leaders to grasp these perspectives that are very real on the ground instead of feigning shock. Can one imagine the pressures of being young, unemployed with children to take care of as in providing food, clothing, shelter, medical attention and supervision? Clearly the situation is grave and must be addressed quickly on a multiplicity of levels, in order to halt a vicious cycle that may contaminate the country’s future for decades to come and frighten the living daylights out of citizens because criminality has spiked as a result, and will continue to spike if not arrested by dealing with the frustration of the youth at its core.

Saint Lucia has defined for itself a national youth policy. This document is probably comatose or only partially energized. Whatever the case, thousands of young Saint Lucians feel that their future is out of their hands as the young male guests disclosed to Rick Wayne on his show last Thursday. The “what’s in it for me” is absent. How long can this feeling of hopelessness go on?

By Abetta Country

3 Comments

  1. There’s a huge amount of reasons why there’s problems.

    Unfortunately the world has moved on from big industrial worklines. You can’t leave school and find a job. There is now a global supply of parts and labour so complete goods are not made in one country and you compete on price and quality. Money is made now in technology and services which needs educated specialists. Tourism is useful to a degree and there could probably be more use made of agriculture for domestic consumption and some high end exports. I think SLU could focus on attracting some research facilities for agriculture, tropical plants and marine life.

    People’s quality of life would be improved if the civil/criminal justice system worked. There’s no incentive to try and develop anything because of crime, bureaucracy and political borbolism.

    The youth also have some very high expectations about material things. Their eyes are bigger than their wallets so there’s a lack of humility. In addition there’s too many people for the limited resources available which contributes to the elevated level of unemployment and all the consequences that go with it.

    1. Very significant commentary. Hats off to you! Not much to add here. You have captured in essence what the critical issues are. We need like China did to have a very significant REDUCTION IN POPULATION GROWTH.

      Even if done today, the great benefits will take nearly 15 years to have their full impact. In the short term, we will benefit by:
      1. Significant reductions in cost of healthcare like pre- and post-natal care
      2. Better education investments and spending on fewer children,
      3. Better local job prospects for those leaving the TERTIARY SCHOOLS, and
      4. Significant reduction in the cost of certain infrastructure like providing potable water and school places

      Much long ago, some of our regional thinkers were expressing concerns about a religion that furthered its membership by BLOCKING every avenue to planned parenthood. Today, these clergymen cannot support the still burgeoning overpopulation growth with just prayers anymore. Some have even gone astray by going against their vows by exacerbating this ever- growing problem with their own progeny.

  2. youth loosely translated is a rudimentary often eclectic preparation to assume the mantle of full adulthood.
    The first blogger touched on most of the key points and was philosophically sconded by the second blogger.
    I would like to add a Basketball analogy: The team mates of Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird who knew best how to move and position themselves -without the ball in hand- were the ones who fully exploited the gifted capabilities of these astounding point guards to explosive, exhilarating set play finishes.

    Youth must use every frugal resource and strategy to acquire skills. They may have to improvise and use the exponential powers generated via synergy and or collaboration. Skills can be buffet spread or laser focused. Metacognition is a desirable outcome. Learn how to learn or teach self is a great youthful odyssey.
    How many youth fully exploit the self learning learning resources of web 2.0 or 3.0 resources. Instead of 6 hours of vulgar gender exploitation music, how about interspersing with 2 hours of visit to a famous online museum or library portal.
    Create an evolving self assessment of all skills /assets in ones potential toolkit. Target areas of major deficits/weakness. Example a 17 year old whose math skills are athe std 6 level shoud concentrate on mastery of Algebra 1. At the high end of accessibility, this basic algebra self learning course costs about $10 on a CD. At the low end it can be learned online through MIT or ITunes U free courses portals.
    The adage that youth is wasted on the young is what must be challenged or reversed by youth as they:

    Yearn with
    Optimism to
    Ultimately
    Triumph as
    Humans

    In other words prepare for opportunity wherever in this world it materializes.

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