The OECS Commission in collaboration with the Windward Islands Debating Competition Planning Committee (WIDCPC) successfully hosted a Youth Debate on Thursday 10th February 2022 under the theme ‘Education in Extraordinary Times: From Vulnerability to Resilience. This Youth Debate was held as a lead up event to the 7th Council of OECS Ministers of Education Meeting, which was held from February 17th- 18th 2022.
The OECS Commission continues to place youth engagement as a priority, and for the second consecutive year, the Commission included a youth component as part of the Annual Council of Ministers of Education Meeting. The aim of this engagement was to provide a platform for the region’s young to contribute to the agenda and speak directly to the policymakers, capturing their practical and sustainable recommendations on improving the education sector across the OECS in the process.
This year, in collaboration with the WIDCPC, the Commission hosted a Youth Debate on Education that covered a plethora of issues including but not limited to Education and COVID 19, Early Childhood Education, Education and the Future of Work and standardized testing. The Youth debate was modelled after the US Presidential debate. This model allowed for robust discourse, sharing of ideas and the presentation of the unique views of all participants on the issues addressed. Among the main highlights from their recommendations was a call to action for more equitable access to education and a multisectoral approach to the issues faced in education.
In his opening remarks during the debate, OECS Director General Dr. Didacus Jules expressed the continued commitment of the OECS Commission to engage the youth of the region in all aspects of our development. He highlighted the importance of events like this, in capturing the diverse views of our youth.
‘’The expectation is that this exchange will aid in our understanding of age-old and more recent issues in education, and contribute towards crafting sustainable recommendations for action. If this current pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we require an all hands-on deck approach to move forward, and the input of our youth is critical.‘’
Ashfred Norris was adjudicated as the best overall speaker, and he delivered a presentation to the Ministers of Education on behalf of OECS Youth on Friday 18th February 2022. In his presentation, Mr. Norris further elucidated on the recommendations made during the debate, and delivered a call to action to the Ministers of Education. As he concluded his presentation, Mr. Norris had this to say to the Ministers:
What you do with this insight will mold, model and determine the type of leaders, businessmen and women, fashion icons, inventors & innovators, policymakers, policy shakers, human resource and overall the quality of a people which will be turning the gears of our Caribbean reality long after you are gone. So, I pose this question once more… “What are you going to do about it?”
The Debaters, who are all current university students, were all past participants of the Windward Islands and Leeward Islands Debating Competition.
Ashfred Norris: Overall Best Speaker