By Georgia Lewis Scott
Our most precious commodities, our children, have now returned to school and are re-establishing themselves in a routine and readjusting to homework and increased responsibility after a summer off. It is an opportune time to reflect on what we want for our children.
Of course, we want them to achieve good grades and learn to the best of their abilities. Of course, we want them to secure placement at a respected school and earn as many subjects in the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examinations as possible. But, let us look beyond the numbers and on-paper achievements.
Beyond math, beyond language skills and Jamaica's history, we want our children and youth to build character and become robust citizens. We want to encourage children to develop critical thinking and the backbone to stand up for what they believe in. We want our children to question authority, not just for the sake of doing so, but to challenge our nation to be better.
In recent years, society's standards have slipped in terms of what is permissible. When they are off the schoolyard, children forget their manners. They wear their pants below their waist and reveal much more skin than they should. In the grand scheme of things, amid high murder rates and instances of crime, are these truly offences we must pay attention to?
Absolutely, because the prevention of crime and violence and an overall disrespect for our fellow human beings starts when we are children. We must teach our children the basics when it comes to respect - respect for themselves and also their peers and elders. Proper comport and dress are included in this behaviour.
Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) subscribes to these views and demands that the youth that we work with meet these high standards. In order to enter our doors, they must be properly dressed. They must be on time and they must greet one another and YOU staff with respect, warmth, and decorum.
YOU is the largest mentoring agency in the region and we have affected the lives of tens of thousands of youth since our inception in 1991. We know what works and what does not when it comes to shaping the lives of troubled youth and fighting the negative influences they face in their communities. We know that our youth need positive guidance, strong role models, and someone to tell them how to behave in order to engender self-respect.
With self-respect comes respect for one's peers, one's leaders and one's fellow citizens. And it is only through this avenue that we can continue on a path to a better Jamaica. There is no doubt that we can get there. Vision 2030 lays out our future to make Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, do business and raise families.
But we must start by encouraging the continued creation of a strong foundation, a nation in which children know how to behave and know how to treat their fellow citizens. A nation in which our children are so valued that they value themselves and grow up to be healthy, contributing citizens who believe in our nation and its future.
Georgia Lewis Scott is executive director of Youth Opportunities Unlimited. Email feedback to email@example.com.