Young people make up most of our nation’s population today. And unless we create sound ways to mentor and coach and develop these young minds, we would stumble along into our default future, another generation lost, unable to rise to our potential.
This new generation knows what’s going on in the world. They plug in to the Internet, and easily access what’s possible in other societies around the world.
Many of them hear good things from overseas family and friends. They browse the Internet and see what’s going on: they harbour high expectations. They want their society at home to rise to their expectations.
We cannot allow another generation of Guyanese to suffer from the social crisis that triggered the migration of 89 percent of our professional and skilled people.
We’ve suffered so much from people migrating from this society, starting with a wave that packed up and left in the 1960’s fearing the consequences of political independence, following the racial tensions that fuelled massive violence across the country.
In the 1970’s and 1980’s, as economic troubles beset us, migration accelerated with alarming speed, and by the 1990’s, a backtrack and migratory system had become so entrenched, that people were leaving with systematic ease.
Today, we hold the world record for the country most suffering from brain drain, with skilled, professional Guyanese serving everywhere else in the world, but their homeland.
Today, our young people bemoan lack of opportunities to maximize their potential, and many easily talk and dream of migrating.
We suffer one of the world’s deadliest youth suicide rate, with young people saying they face severe pressures from a society lacking structures and support systems for the young. A wide swath of our young people suffers drug addiction, social dysfunction and illiteracy. Many of the petty crimes occurring on the streets of Georgetown are at the hands of teenagers, and it’s quite common to see young souls facing criminal charges in court.
Community centres across the country remain non-functional; the public school system continues to churn out over 50 percent failures at English, the subject young people most need to build a sound future; and general support systems are lacking in villages, the city and especially in the hinterland.
Most lacking, however, is national a system for mentoring, life-coaching and fostering self-development in young Guyanese.
Libraries remain rare across the country, with the National Library in Georgetown the lone efficient centre for the propagation of books and knowledge to the nation.
The Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport seems preoccupied with things sports and culture, rather than a targeted, deliberate, systematic development of the young across the country.
Young people at the University of Guyana see little prospect of a decent-paying job after completing their university education; youth aspiring to become entrepreneurs and business owners cannot access a competent mentoring programme; gifted young sportsmen and sportswomen remain under-coached and under-managed; young talents such as writers, musicians, artists and dancers must self-develop and depend on generous family members or friends, to even dream of a career.
Many of these gifted Guyanese sons and daughters, who could build our nation over the next couple decades, look for a break to go overseas. That’s where they see their hope.
We could continue to turn a blind eye to how our young people see their society, and what they feel they could achieve here, or we could rise to the opportunities of the 21st century and really build a place for us on the stage of this global village.
So much is possible now. Young people know it. They see what their friends and family are achieving overseas as young people. But when they look around their homeland, they see more despair than prospect.
Our young people now stand politically aware, dynamically engaged, especially on globally accessible social media, and unconscious of the traditional divides that dictated this nation’s way of being for the past 50 years.
It’s a new world, and the new generation of Guyanese want the leaders of their society to grant them the level playing field they desire.
We’ve got official studies, policy documents, rhetoric and lots of political talk already. It’s time for action.
Maybe the action should start with an inter-Party Parliamentary working group that is dedicated to creating a national playing field where every Guyanese youth can be prepared, mentored, developed and granted the opportunity to rise above the social malaise that stifles his or her local community.
This generation grew up without local government elections. A lot of their parents grew up without free and fair elections until 1992. This means we harbour a democratic nation that may not know how to be democratic citizens, how to exercise their individual freedoms and rights.
So we must design and develop a national system to empower the individual person to maximize his or her potential.
A Parliamentary group, empowered to design and create a youth development system across the nation, spanning from central government to local communities, including isolated villages in the hinterland, would provide a powerful stimulus to advancing our nation, in this generation.
With 60 percent of the population below the age of 19 years, so much is riding on us getting it right, now. We need leadership, vision, commitment, and leaders taking the responsibility to make it happen for our young people.
The Guyanese nation cannot afford another generation of our young being lost.
We must start cultivating a homeland where a Guyanese born here wants to stay here, to build here, to see a society where he or she could receive a decent education, start a family, and raise kids and develop a career here, in the Guyanese homeland.
Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport, Dr Frank Anthony, could assume the leadership, visionary role, and statesman-like function to initiate a Parliamentary working group that sends a strong message of hope to young Guyanese, the future leaders of this society.
Out of Parliament, our young people could see hope, a bright future, and a determined commitment to grant them the tools to build their personal lives into a wholesome Guyanese nation.
We need a visionary leader to make it happen.