As the year glides behind the horizon, I reflect on the identity crisis and lack of a sense of direction amongst the younger generation. Having sat at the core of the education system at one elite school in Georgetown and one in the Rupununi, both for six months apiece, my experiences with the youngsters paint a gloomy picture for the future of the country. Few young people I met know what, if anything, they liked about themselves and their nation.
The young adults, in particular, are quick to be self-deprecating and disparaging because many of them think there is a lot wrong with their country. Of course there is, but it is just that a lot of wrongs need to be put right. The older folks appear to be associated with corruption, drug dealing, high crime levels, bribery and a collapsing economy and national values.
The Amerindians in the interior seem to have resigned themselves after being neglected by the political authorities who do not involve them in developmental issues. With bad roads, poor communication and health facilities, poorly equipped schools and no value-oriented system for communal development and integration, most interior villages lag behind.
Among the young people I have met, class has become an issue and no longer is anyone prepared to accept their place. Apparently, with the present state of affairs in the education system, students are not motivated to pursue education seriously. Their attitude is, no-matter-what-happens-I-am-probably-not-going-to-make-it, and if I do, it’s not worth it. Teachers no longer seek professional fulfilment, but look for financial security. Thus schools have become profit-driven learning facilities inhabited by educational consumers rather than students.
Teachers are more inclined to perform with the extra lesson groups, which pay highly for that service. For the students, success is measured by income or purchasing power; you are what your parents earn. Some teachers only give their best shots to such extra lesson groups, for competition is ubiquitous amongst them. That closes many doors to those from less affluent families, doors that might otherwise have remained open.
In Lethem, for example, the electricity supply runs from 7 am to 1:00 am the following morning . The satellite town thus has power for eighteen hours.
This is not to say there aren’t blackouts; these are numerous. Now, just across in Bon Fim, electricity is supplied 24/7. With such a scenario, the young generation in and around Lethem, looks at Bon Fim and Boa Vista as having better prospects than Lethem or Guyana.
Their greatest desire is always to move across. There are still enormous obstacles to social mobility, from education and mindset, to life in areas that are geographically isolated. Even in civilized Georgetown (as my friend Dianne likes to say), most young people aspire to move to the ‘promised lands,’ either Canada or the USA.
There is a growing gulf between young people on the coast and those in the interior, and between prosperity and poverty, both of which tend to be passed on to the next generation with an invisible Berlin Wall separating the people of the same country.
Everyone believes in something, whether spiritual or secular. Those young people whose aspirations and expectations are stagnant and unrealized turn to banditry. Music and drugs are the new religion for the youngsters. These guarantee a new communion and community that can be heard.
Most lose the thread of the search to find a fundamental Guyanese culture and identity. For each day of the year, I have witnessed some craziness in these youths with earphones stuck all day long in their ears.
Every moment finds them with little electronic gadgets, shutting themselves off from their local world. They vie for the glories spread through music and videos, be it love and sex, obscene language, violence, power, drugs, and suicide.
A Machiavellian attitude dominates, where the world is depicted as a jungle in which there is no reality but sex and power, where power is the reward of ruthless ferocity and cunning. In such a jungle the tyrant is king. Justice, liberty and equality thus count for little.
What is needed is a re-direction of policy as a new year dawns, for the younger generation to delight in being Guyanese. Some pragmatism, competency and respect for the future of the nation from the political leaders would reclaim the hopes of younger people. Political commitment to good governance and sound policies can guide us towards universal standards of the common good, especially for the younger generation. Politics is thus not a game of power, but of service.
Clyde B Chakupeta