Wed | Aug 15, 2018

Hope fades- Disillusioned young Jamaicans giving up on life

Published:Sunday | April 5, 2015 | 12:00 AMErica Virtue
Community activist Joy ‘Sharon’ Matthews (right) embraced by Peace Management Initiative executive, Milton Thomas.
Boys as young as these are losing hope that they will have a bright future in Jamaica.
Dr Henley Morgan

Jamaican youngsters, particularly those in inner-city communities, are starting to lose hope at earlier ages as visions of a dismal future set it.

Empirical data show that many have set their sights on migrating, but those who see no way of heading to what they believe are greener pastures in foreign lands are becoming overcome with desperation and disillusionment.

Corporate Area community activist Joy 'Sharon' Matthews says young people in her inner-city community of Lyndhurst/

Greenwich in Trench Town and the nearby Maxfield Avenue area see their future tied to the prospects for employment and housing, neither of which they believe they will attain.

According to Matthews, many young persons have lost hope and others are losing it fast.

"There is no employment for them. Even those who have education have no jobs. They have no skills, and even after work experience, they don't have a job. The housing situation is very bad - four people live in a little dingy and there is nothing better to rent, much more to buy," declared Matthews.

The desperation and disillusion of the young people in these communities is compounded by the brutal nature of criminals who stalk the streets.

"Crime is another problem. It's just not safe anywhere, and sometimes you have people who go to prison and all they have is a life of crime. There is nobody there to offer moral support, to believe in them," argued the community activist, who has stared gunmen in the face and told them "no more".




"Some of the young people who have come to me say they prefer to go overseas to work on a garbage truck, because over there, nobody puts them down. Out here, people look down on you, and as poor as people are, they don't want people to trample them even further," said Matthews.

Senior lecturer in political psychology at the University of the West Indies, Christopher Charles, said many young people he interacts with on the Mona campus want to leave Jamaica.

"They all want to leave, but it's strictly for economic reasons. They are not too worried about crime. They don't see crime as a big part of their decision, but they just want to live comfortably and they believe they can't do so in Jamaica," said Charles.

Last year, a Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll found that more than four out of every 10 Jamaicans have lost hope in the country and have a desire to migrate.

The Johnson poll found that 44 per cent of young Jamaicans between the ages of 18 and 24 years indicated that they would leave Jamaica. Similarly, 44 per cent between the ages of 25 and 34 would go abroad, while 46 per cent of Jamaicans between the ages of 35 and 44 would pack up and go.

Johnson also found that 43 per cent of Jamaicans or persons in their immediate families hoped to migrate.

The poll showed that 57 per cent of Jamaicans under 25 years said they were extremely proud to be Jamaican, while 31 per cent said they were proud of their nationality.

However, despite this pride, Johnson found that they still wanted to leave, confirming the finding of a survey conducted in 2014 by the Centre for Leadership and Governance in the Department of Government at the University of the West Indies, Mona campus.

That survey found that 49.3 per cent of young adults said they would give up their citizenship and live in another country, citing the need for better opportunities.




Head of the Agency for Inner-city Renewal Dr Henley Morgan said the issue of hope among young people in inner-city communities had a three-pronged explanation.

"Speaking generally, children at the pre-secondary level, attending good schools and with strong family support are full of hope. They want to be in Jamaica," said Morgan.

He said children have started losing hope in their teenage years.

"At the adolescence stage, there is the mixed bag. Among the boys, especially if they are not doing well in school, and start displaying antisocial behaviour, that is likely to cause more despair. Among the girls, if they are not doing well, that is where you tend to see teenage pregnancies," stated Morgan.

He said it is very worrying that among those in the 18 to 24 age group, hope dissipates the older they get.