Cadets no longer cool? - Children, adults shun once very popular uniformed group
The Jamaica Combined Cadet Force (JCCF) will be celebrating 75 years this year, but a decrease in the number of students signing up for the group is sparking concern in some quarters over its continued existence.
The life is reportedly being squeezed from the cadet force by a lack of interest in volunteerism, which is the foundation on which it was built.
Adjutant training officer for the JCCF, Major Simone Foster, told The Sunday Gleaner that not many people are as willing to commit to investing in young people today, and the force is being challenged to find volunteers to supervise those children who do sign up.
"When we started in 1943, we had 16 cadet units, and predominantly, the adult volunteers that we had were from the education system. Now, although we have a lot of educators, they are engaged in other activities that are income-generating," said Foster.
"So if it is that I am a teacher at one of these high schools and I can do extra lessons between three and five, they are gravitating to that, as opposed to being involved in a cadet programme," added Foster.
She said persons in the private sector have also had issues volunteering because of their working hours. However, there are those who have been committed to the cause and have been using their lunch hours and vacation leave to volunteer so that the children can benefit.
"It is really a full-time job to invest in a young person because when you have camps and courses, you are the one who interacts or interface with the parents," said Foster, as she added that the JCCF is not daunted.
"We are embarking on some initiatives now to expand our recruitment for adult volunteers, but it is the persons who are committed and are able to commit, both their time and other resources, that we are attracting," she said.
At the end of last year, there were 95 cadet units in schools across the island. Some of these units were established in universities in recent times. There are currently 2,700 cadets, but Foster said this is way below the 5,000 cadets they should ideally have as a part of the programme.
"I am in agreement that the young people are not joining as much as we would like them to and this is particularly because we don't have a lot of incentive that is attractive for the programme," she said.
One of the things that have attracted young people over the years was the wearing of the uniform and the accessories that accompany this, but Foster said outfitting the students has become a very costly venture.
Just a pair of combat boots for a cadet can cost anywhere between $9,000 and $15,000, and the JCCF is responsible for providing the students with uniforms with funding from the Ministry of Education.
Despite the challenges, Foster says the JCCF continues to shape the lives of young people by teaching them core values such as discipline and leadership. Cadets are also taught life skills, which help them to be more well-rounded citizens.
The adjutant training officer says they are optimistic as they prepare to celebrate another year of making a positive impact on Jamaican youths.
"We are rebuilding now. We have increased our recruitment drive and we have started training a lot more adults," said Foster.