Mon | Jan 21, 2019

UWI hurting youth participation in politics

Published:Thursday | May 31, 2018 | 12:00 AMBrian Walker/Staff Reporter

President of the People's National Party Youth Organisation (PNPYO), Krystal Tomlinson, has claimed that The University of the West Indies (UWI) helps to stigmatise politics by not providing an open environment for political groups to gather and engage students on campus.

"I find that there's a major challenge, particularly on a campus like The University of the West Indies, where political dialogue, conversation and formal societies are frowned on," said Tomlinson, who was addressing a Gleaner Youth Forum, held last week at the newspaper's North Street, Kingston offices.

"It helps to further bastardise the process for youth who should be wanting to actively participate in politics."

She added: "In any mature democracy, there's no tertiary-level institution that bans the formation of a political society, particularly one linked to rooted political parties in a country."

The UWI graduate also said that political groups need to move beyond covert meetings, and should be able to convene in a more nurturing atmosphere, in an effort to energise students about governance.

Tomlinson argued: "I think for UWI, where the population is so large - and quite frankly, a lot of the national leaders are coming out of UWI - they don't get a space to actively participate as young, thinking, politicians. I think we really lose an opportunity there."

She suggested that the Electoral Commission of Jamaica along with youth affiliates of both parties could use the Democracy Passport, a booklet filled with information about voting and governance, as a tool to spark dialogue with the university's leadership and students.

The PNPYO president contended that the issue is not very pronounced at the University of Technology (UTech).

The UWI did not respond to a query from The Gleaner regarding its policy on student political groups.

Meanwhile, Mercedes Deane, university registrar at UTech, said: "The university adheres to the freedom of association clause in the Jamaican Constitution, where students are free to form clubs such as those."

She continued: "However, these clubs/societies are required to register with the Students' Union in order to garner certain benefits (as cited in the Students' Union's constitution)."