Hope lost! - Government urged to do more for youth in inner-city communities
The calls are growing louder for the Government to make a more sustained effort to reach unattached youth in the many volatile inner-city communities across the island as part of the effort to tame the crime monster.
"The programmes that work are those that have the right people, that engage the youths and get them on to an alternative lifestyle, something that will provide a structure that will have them give back to their communities," argued Dr Elizabeth Ward, executive director of the Violence Prevention Alliance last Wednesday.
"Many of them just say 'nutten nah go on for me', and because they feel that the only opportunity they have is a lifestyle which often involves criminal activities, and while living in areas where there is a lot of criminal activities, they know that their lives can be lost very quickly," added Ward.
She argued many inner-city youths smoke and drink heavily with little regard for the possible health complications.
"They don't think that they will live long enough to get those diseases. They are enjoying life and they are also trying to numb the grief and pain which often comes with recurrent failure," said Ward.
She was supported by Milton Tomlinson, mediation specialist at the Peace Management Initiative, who argued that the ultimate dream of many inner-city youths is limited to "flashiness and bling".
"A youth just want to live. He wants to drive a car, he wants to sleep in a hotel, eat at a big restaurant and spend some time with a nice girl and say this is the life. They have lost hope," said Tomlinson.
"Despite the amount of training programme that you hear going on, the reality is that the youths need to learn and earn," said Tomlinson, as he argued that too many of Jamaica's youngsters often find themselves choosing between school and providing for relatives and children.
According to Tomlinson, more resources need to be pumped into graduates of inner-city training programmes, as they often return to their depressed conditions after being certified by reputable institutions.
In the meantime, Clive Kerr, a resident of 'Southside', a volatile community in central Kingston, argued that it is the State that is failing these vulnerable youngsters.
"It is not the youths that are saying nothing not going on, it is the government who are saying that. If they create opportunities, the youths will go look work," said Kerr.
"They have not lost hope in themselves. They believe in themselves. They have lost hope in the system. A youth leave school with how many subjects and don't have a job, and him keep on going out there until him get fed up and stay home. The government need to blame themselves too," added Kerr.