Letter of the Day | Has future been cancelled for young Jamaicans?
THE EDITOR, Madam:
Recently, a Gleaner article reported that a young Jamaican, when asked what he wanted to be when he grew up, he said “a gunman“. No doubt he had woken up that morning, not been given an adequate breakfast with nothing to do, and nowhere to go. And no prospect of an alternative future. It is inevitable that there are many more young Jamaicans with the same prospect.
Jamaica, distracted by COVID-19, has deprived many of our youth of a viable education which should have led to a suitable occupation. The statistics tell us that we are failing to produce literate and numerate school-leavers. At the best of times the Jamaican educational system has turned out young people ill-equipped to meet Jamaica’s expectations.
Emigration might have been a goal but our gunman-to-be doesn’t qualify. That route, regrettably, is being pursued by tertiary institution graduates, experienced middle managers and those who have skills other countries are seeking.
The Government insists that the present educational system is effective and, when necessary, resorts to online teaching. We are expected to believe that there are enough tablets and computers, sufficient Wi-Fi and broadband coverage and enough teachers proficient in teaching over the Internet to make online education a success.
The increase in the number of pregnant girls and the frequency with which boys are absent from school in order to go to work is emptying our classrooms. Last week’s Sunday Gleaner, on the other hand, carries at least 14 pages of job openings. My bet is that many are filled by men and women simply moving from one job to a similar position with a competitor.
The minister of tourism takes pride in regularly announcing the latest influx of visitors. The majority arrive on cruise ships or are booked into all-inclusive hotels. The tourist industry employs thousands of semi-skilled Jamaicans – waiters, barmen, waitresses, gardeners, security guards and other categories of service staff but few at the managerial level. Much tourism revenue is retained abroad (i.e. hotel and cruise ship bookings). A large amount is used to import items that could be produced here. The Government says, however, that our tourist industry represents substantial economic growth. But does it? Isn’t it time we had a cost/benefit analysis?
Even the many publicised construction projects seem to deprive Jamaicans, young and old, of jobs that the master builders maintain can be filled at home rather than by work-permitted personnel.
As to COVID-19, the Government has apparently been unable to implement timely and effective control measures and information campaigns throughout the pandemic. Social media has done a better job by promoting anti-vaccination and vaccination misinformation. Where are the voices needed to persuade everyone to get vaccinated? If we concede that we don’t trust politicians, then what about the voices of the church, teachers, medical professions, sportsmen and women, entertainers and the business community? Don’t we realise the world is leaving us behind and our unvaccinated youth have another strike against them when hoping to take up many occupations whether here or abroad.
“Failure at the lowest levels of the (educational) system – not the absence of a universal sixth form – are the ills causing weak investment, high unemployment, low productivity, execrable public behaviour and chronic crime,” says the Rev Thwaites. Is anybody listening? The inadequacy of early education and other shortcomings must be addressed before much longer. We are creating an underclass of alienated youth who see no future for them in their own country apart from crime, which offers an exciting albeit short life. Young Jamaicans are likely to find out that tomorrow has been cancelled for them.