How ironic that while the Gleaner was trying to contact Youth Minister Olivia 'Babsy' Grange, or someone from her office, for a response to the many accusations/complaints levied against her administration by national youth leaders, Minister Grange and her officers were busy preparing for the Prime Minister's Youth Awards for Excellence, and therefore unable to respond to the urgent cries of the nation's next set of leaders.
A fitting metaphor of the country's current crisis.
The Gleaner's Editor's Forum has struck gold with their revelation of the dissatisfaction being experienced by Jamaica's youth leaders, sparking debates that have culminated in the issue of youth empowerment and development coming to the fore in print media. It is my sincere hope that this time, it will evolve from bickering, blame-gaming and naysaying into constructive discourse and the consequent implementation of workable solutions to what are, doubtless, important national issues.
The Gleaner's main story on Sunday, January 23, titled 'Boot Babsy', reported that the nation's youth leaders were extremely dissatisfied with the management of the youth portfolio by the minister with responsibility for information, culture, youth and sports, Olivia 'Babsy' Grange. There were suggestions by some of the young leaders that the portfolio should be paired with the Ministry of Education, which, in my view, is a suggestion that should be explored.
While some youth get highlighted and glorified by the nation's leaders, others - the majority - are often left unempowered and underrepresented. To be honest, I can't identify any point in my lifetime when I felt that Jamaican youth were receiving comprehensive, deliberate, consistent attention, whether through programmes or other such initiatives, that led to sustained growth and development in that demographic.
When I first read the news stories of young leaders expressing dissatisfaction with the lack of attention received from Government, especially the minister with responsibility for them, I thought, "Finally somebody is listening to us. Bravo, Gleaner.' Then I realised, sadly, that the more things change, the more they remain the same.
While these young leaders raise a ruckus and demand more attention, they will, once they get it, most likely become satisfied with pushing their own agendas and programmes, which, it can be reasonably argued, in most cases, will NOT be representative of the needs of the wider youth populace. It will, instead, represent what they think the needs of the youth are, based on their often limited and myopic understanding of the demographic they claim to represent.
As a friend pointed out, our young leaders sometimes remind me of politicians who scream and cry to get their hands into the kitty for the many good and virtuous causes of their constituents, only to miraculously forget all notion of goodness and virtue once that access is obtained. And woe be unto the constituents thereafter.
I sincerely hope that I am proven wrong. I hope that there will be sustained, lasting, positive change in our Government's attitude to youth, in our youth leaders' attitudes to the people they claim to represent, and in our youth's attitude toward themselves, for, as Marcus Garvey so aptly noted, "There shall be no solution to this ... problem until you (youth), yourselves, strike the blow for liberty."
More to come ...