Sunday, February 26, 2012

Growing Up Jamaica(n) Pt 3

Time for Change
The operative word is CHANGE. And this is the word that is being heralded by many. It is time, the whole country seems to agree, for positive, decisive and permanent change. What better place to start than with the youth?

1. We have to change the education system to motivate youth. We have to teach leadership from an early age, make it part of the school curriculum, and learn to encourage individuality, as well as bring back civics, which teaches pride in one’s history and culture. I believe in career training from an early age. I believe in proper preparation for success. I believe in a system that trains leaders. Not just students. An education system that will not just shove knowledge down our childrens’  throats but will teach them how to think critically about the issues facing their nations, and emphasise individual thought, instead of conformity and repetition, solutions instead of problems.

It took me a while to realise what I really wanted to do, who I really wanted to be. And to realise that the error was not in me but in a system that taught me to think that the error was always in me.

2. We have to change the way we view the working world. It’s time to emphasise and teach entrepreneurship as a way of life and thinking, instead of as an abstract ideal for a select few. Creativity and innovation must become ingrained in our culture if we are to step up from being a developing nation and become developed.

3. We have to change how we engage our youth in dialog about their futures, and the future of this nation. Twenty-first century living requires 21st-century thinking, to which 21st-century technology is essential. Youth won’t be young forever. Essentially, it’s their world. We have to find better, more innovative ways to teach them how to grow into their roles and take charge of their lives, ensuring that they realise that everything they do affects the entire nation. We no longer have the luxury of living for just one.

4. We have to change the dependent culture that we have yet to dispel in 50 years! Instead of thinking in terms of what the ‘system’ can give to them, youth have to be taught to think in terms of what they can give to the system to help mold the nation’s future. Can we build/Are we building a new mindset, which is indispensable to building a better nation?

It’s a very complex problem, and Jamaica is not the only country facing it. Other Caribbean countries have similar issues, and indeed, countries all around the world are dealing with this sudden and tremendous need to rethink their national visions and chart new paths, and finding ways to link their past with their present, while charting new routes to a brighter future. The big question is: how do we go forward? How do we create a society that encourages excellence and self-actualisation without stamping out individuality?

Jamaica is at a time where the entire nation is looking back, and looking forward. We recently concluded our eighth general election, and appointed, for the second time, a female prime minister to govern the nation’s affairs. As a nation and generation, we stand at a crossroads. We have many tough decisions ahead of us.

As Jamaica reflects, I find it is a poignant time to do my own reflection on the progress my nation has made, and to personalise the experience. I have lived for a half  of this country’s independent life span. What does the nation’s 50th Independence really mean for its youth? And more specifically, what does it mean to me?

So, in this, our 50th year of adulthood, I’d like to teach Jamaica how to be a child again. I’d like to teach my country how not to be so hardened by the years of continuous struggle. And I’d like to remind our youth how to hope, and grow with outward grace and inward beauty. How to see the beauty and the blessing in our brilliant sunshine, and develop personalities that  rival its warmth and resilience.

I’d like us to look back and recapture the heart that beat in our ancestors: strength, determination, vision. And I’d love it if we finally got the inheritance that rightfully belongs to us. Not the repatriation money so many are clamouring for: but the lessons learnt through history. And the wisdom of not just half a century, but more than a thousand years.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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