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Sashakay Fairclough: Finding a way to want to remain here

Published:Thursday | April 14, 2016 | 12:00 AM

The findings that 81 per cent of Jamaicans would move abroad at the drop of a hat is not remotely astonishing.

I attended law school in London with persons from various Caribbean nations, including Jamaica. After graduation, all the students from the Caribbean islands, in particular Trinidad and Tobago, and St Vincent, returned home in order to give back to their countries. All except the Jamaicans.

As the crime capital of the Caribbean and one of the poorest countries there, Jamaica does not have a whole lot to offer young people. One of my mentees, a ninth-grade student, is aware of this and indicated that she regrets being born here. She believes her life would have been much better in America as she feels she is not allowed to have dreams in a place that cannot even facilitate them. Unfortunately, all the others in the meeting agreed.

I am just a young girl from St Ann, both my parents grew up poor and I only wanted to make them proud. At school I was bullied for being a 'nerd' because I found studying more rewarding than having a boyfriend or going to parties. I understood that Jamaica could not offer me much, but I dreamed of what I could do for Jamaica, rather than what it could do for me. I wanted my country to be better, not just for me, but for every single high school and college graduate. Steve Jobs' quote, 'The people who think they are crazy enough to change the world are the ones who do', became my mission statement.

How can our country advance when most of the young people are leaving? how can more be demanded from our leaders when those who can make astute decisions about our political future are not in the country to do so?

It is pointless to leave and then grumble that Jamaica has no opportunities. There are no opportunities because those who could have created them decided to leave and contribute to another man's country.

There are even less opportunities because rather than thinking of creative ways to change it, citizens are thinking of creative ways to leave it. It is like a marriage. Marriage takes constant work, and if from the very beginning you plan to divorce, the marriage will never survive.

Conspicuously, we have to work harder than many of our Caribbean counterparts, as most of the other islands have better economies.



However, many of those young people are more willing to build their countries in order to make it flourish for themselves and the next generation. We need to get rid of the mindset that anywhere is better than Jamaica. Parents, stop encouraging your children to migrate as soon as they leave high school. The fact that there is a rampant migration of highly skilled people leads to less economic growth and development. In many cases, brain drain literally destroys developing countries.

I applaud those who have migrated but still give back to their country. God does not make mistakes; you were born in Jamaica for a reason, and that is what I told my mentee. It will never be better if you do not make it better.

We need to work on the issues that are crippling our society, for example, criminals need to be repudiated by the people. Their criminal acts need to be discouraged, especially by those closest to them.

Start by refusing to accept their ill-gotten gains, put your country first. They are the ones who take that 'criminal culture' abroad, which results in the animosity towards Jamaicans by certain foreigners. Moreover, desist from falling victim to political trickery. these politicians use the same cheap tactics every election yet people still continue to believe the lies and support them because of personal interests. The young people are the ones who can change this culture. We need to understand that politicians are not above us.

We put them where they are. Whether you voted for them or not, the money that you pay in taxes is used to pay their salary and sort out the country's issues. Demand that they work. Do not accept mediocrity because you feel intimidated. As taxpayers and voters, you have the power, so use it.

Our country will not change overnight, but it will never change if the brain drain of the highly skilled continues. Mahatma Gandhi said, 'be the change you wish to see in the world'. Choose worthwhile degrees, or don't do a degree at all, learn useful skills, volunteer at various organisations and be creative. It is up to us to repair what is broken and restore what is lost. Do not ask 'what can Jamaica do for me'? instead ask 'what can I do for Jamaica?'

I am not asking you to sacrifice yourself and your well-being for your country. we all want to thrive; however, chasing foreign dreams may leave you grossly disappointed and will leave Jamaica in the exact same underdeveloped position it is currently in.

- Sashakay Fairclough is a barrister, freelance journalist and mentor. Email feedback to or