Fri | Sep 21, 2018

Looking back, looking forward | A call to break chain of abuse

Published:Wednesday | November 29, 2017 | 11:02 PM
Floyd Green, minister of state in the ministry of education, youth and information
Students of Wolmers High having a peaceful protest against Child abuse at Heroes Circle.

Youth Development in Jamaica has for too long gone overlooked and undervalued but, despite discussions which indicate that, our children and youth have the potential to either positively or negatively impact our nation's future. Despite the challenges of funding to the children and youth sector, our young people have consistently demonstrated resilience and their unwavering capacity to actively contribute to meaningful social and economic transformation.

The Ministry of Education, Youth and Information (MOEYI), through joint efforts with the Child Development Agency, the Office of the Children's Registry, the Youth Division and the HEART TRUST NTA Division of Youth Services has been committed to ensuring that our children grow up in protected and safe environments; and, that our youth are provided with more avenues to leverage their innovation and creativity so as to unleash the energy of youth in the drive to create a prosperous Jamaica.

This year, we encouraged the public to TAKE ACTION: Break the Chain of Abuse against Children. For too long Jamaica's children have suffered at the hands of criminals. This was a call to action to engage citizens in a way that reminded them that "EVERY CHILD IS OUR CHILD". It is the responsibility of each person to take responsibility for looking out for children and speaking out when necessary.

To further reiterate this call to action, the Government's Ananda Alert secretariat partnered with the international social-media company Facebook to share broadcasts of missing children on the pages of Jamaican users in order to help citizens be on the lookout. Through the Global Pathfinders secretariat, a stakeholder consultation was staged to review the National Plan of Action for an Integrated Response (NPACV) to Children & Violence, present perspectives on the mounting issues from various stakeholders in the field and, to identify recommendations for moving forward with a NPACV Plan of Action & Results Matrix.

The MOEYI has gone further to improve our efforts to strengthen the systems responsible for overseeing the protection of our children through the merger of the Child Development Agency (CDA) and the Office of the Children's Registry (OCA). There is a strong focus on efficiency, roles and effectiveness. The recommendations have been sent to cabinet for approval.

... Young people showcase talent

Following the November 2016 Youth Month (e=mc2), MOEYI continued the celebration of youth at the ELEVATE Youth Festival which created a space for young people to showcase their talents in art, music and technology, while benefiting from the exchange of knowledge and experiences via discussion panels, workshops and networking activities.

The celebrations energised the efforts to merge HEART Trust-NTA, National Youth Service, Jamaica Foundation for Lifelong Learning and the Apprenticeship Board to allow for alignment of remedial education, skills training and youth development. The merger has seen the establishment of an extensive youth placement model and apprenticeship scheme, with dedicated focus on youth development and life skills.

This year, the NYS Summer Programme placed more than 12,000 students in jobs; most notably the stipend paid to NYS participants increased; secondary school students are paid $8,500 per week, up from $6,000 and tertiary students receive a stipend of $10,600 per week, moving from $8,500.

With the merger came access to more than 150 sites islandwide to host our youth development programmes and to establish youth hubs and access points for further engagement. MOEYI is currently in the process of rolling out a business model to position these hubs as innovative, responsive, youth-friendly spaces that utilise positive youth development approaches to build self and harness the talents and creative potential of Jamaica's young people for wealth creation and active citizenship.

Further to these developments the prime minister established the Work to Learn, Earn, Give and Save (LEGS) programme, where unattached young people would obtain a skill, a stipend and also give service in critical national areas; a part of each youth's stipend goes to a compulsory-savings programme which ensures they will have a decent start after two years in the programme.

As the ministry works to strengthen and promote youth mainstreaming, advocacy and leadership, an assessment of youth clubs/ organisations was completed, followed by the development of a campaign plan to revitalise youth clubs. This birthed the Youth Charge-up Project, which kicked off in September. The intention is to develop the leadership of these clubs to re-launch the National Youth Council.

With an objective to minimise the number of children and youth at risk through public education, needs-based intervention and programmes for the safety, security, growth and development of children and young people the National Youth Policy was approved by Cabinet for tabling in Parliament for November 2017. The new policy outlines priorities, which include: Education and Training, Health and well being, Employment and entrepreneurship, Youth participation and involvement, Social inclusion and reintegration and Institutional and youth sector arrangements.

...Substance over hype

Further to the Youth Policy, November has sparked a new discussion for youth month - Substance over Hype. It is a call to action for all youth to reflect on their individual journeys to promote a deeper understanding of self, and an appreciation for long-term wins and not just a focus on immediate material rewards. In a culture where instant gratification appears natural for many youth, the mantra Substance over Hype encourages Jamaican young persons to not only consider immediate delights, but to also focus on the actions they are taking today to ensure productive and sustainable livelihoods in years to come. Youth Month 2017 activities will bring the HYPE: a high-energy slate of activities aimed at promoting youth engagement through sports, dialogue and volunteerism. Each activity however brings forward SUBSTANCE, and is focused on making meaningful impact on the lives of the young persons during November and beyond. One notably different activity this year is the National Youth Parliament.

This year, an investiture ceremony was held to officially install the youth parliamentarians. The staging of Parliament was extended to the end of their tenure to enable youth parliamentarians to have a more sustained engagement beyond a one-day sitting of the Parliament, while building their capacities for research, policy analysis and project management.

The celebration of our youth excellence for 2017 will wrap up with the reinstatement of the Prime Minister's Youth Awards on December 3, 2017.

- Floyd Green, State Minister in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information