Youth are the solution that politicians seek

Dear Editor,

I’d like to congratulate the STEM Guyana Robotics team on an excellent showing at the First Global Robotics Championship. They have done more than placed 10th overall, they have demonstrated what the future of Guyana will look like. During the competition I saw a group of youths, male and female from different religious backgrounds and ethnicities working together for a better Guyana. Their effort to assist another country in rebuilding their non-functional robot was not seen as an act of wanting to win, but a sign of how as Guyanese we will be able to provide assistance to other nations; it is those simple things that make me extremely proud to be Guyanese.

Allow me to boldly state that we the youth are the solution that the politicians seek. We are the ones to transcend racial prejudice.  We are the facilitators of social cohesion. We are the ones whose shoulders bear the chair of growth and development for this nation. But for too long we have been the silent majority, allowing politicians to climb on our backs and ascend to office only to be sidelined until next election.

The late Dr Walter Rodney during his street corner address ‘History is a weapon- The struggle goes on’ posited, “The tragedy of Guyanese youth, and it is a real tragedy, is that they have been shut out from politics. Even during the period of the Vietnam War, it was only the P.Y.O., the youth arm of the P.P.P. that used to make propaganda on that issue. Our youth could not even understand what was going on in as fundamental a struggle as Vietnam…Our youth have been kept politically uneducated. This is at the time when in the world at large, young people are setting forth new political directions in every nation.

“In South Africa, for example, you have heard of the Soweto uprising. Do you believe that those were adults alone in Soweto? School children, 14, 15, and 16 years old made the Soweto revolution. And I remember certain incidents of that Soweto struggle. When the young people of Soweto were meeting, many of their elders came and said, ‘We do not want to rock the boat; the White man is too strong. Apartheid is too strong. Apartheid is too powerful. Take it easy.’ That is what the older people were telling the youngsters. And one person from Soweto, a young man who has now left and is now in Europe explained to me that there was a meeting in which they had to actually throw out their own parents — their own elders were thrown out of the meeting for standing in the way.”

Now that was a serious development. When the elders have to be cursed by the younger people in a sense. And that is the real threat in this country today.

My belief is that we will continue to be sidelined or ignored or simply be made to settle for less if we do not make demands as a collective. We must not just speak the term ‘strength in numbers’ but we must demonstrate that in our advocacy for a better Guyana. We must not think self or individual organization, but rather as a collective. We can affect the positive changes we desire to see in our socio-political sphere but only if we awaken from our slumber of dependency.

Finally, in relation to a number of manifesto promises that are yet to be fulfilled, while I do not believe President David Granger has forgotten them, somewhere along the line there seems to be an unwillingness to address the affairs of youth development as stated in the manifesto. Under a headline ‘Message from Presidential Candidate’ it is stated on p 4 of the manifesto that “our young people demand jobs not jail.”  That reality still exists, and it is time that the administration commenced the conversation on the decriminalization of marijuana and a study of its production for the growing lucrative world market. According to forbes.com in 2016 North America marijuana sales grew over 6 billion which was an astonishing 30% increase. The forbes.com article went on to say that the industry growth is larger and faster than even the dot-com era. During that time GDP grew at a blistering pace of 22%, Arcview’s editor-in-chief Tom Adams said, “The only consumer industry categories I’ve seen reach $5 billion in annual spending and then post anything like 25% compound annual growth in the next five years are cable television (19%) in the 1990’s and the broadband internet (29%) in the 2000’s.”

The APNU+AFC 2015 manifesto also states that within the first 100 days of the administration we should have the convening of a national youth council, whose mandate, terms of reference and programme of action would be produced for endorsement at a national youth conference.

Under ‘Youth Policy and Develop-ment’ mention was made of fashioning policies to address the deficiencies of unemployment and lack of suitable and rewarding jobs; the appointment of an inter-ministerial task force to develop programmes which should provide targeted solutions for the problems confronting youth; and the establishment of a national youth council which will review and oversee the proper functioning of all youth programmes. The latter is very critical as I believe if it were in place we would have had better relations between the government and youth to date.

In closing I do hope that President Granger’s administration pondered the importance of youth inclusion on International Youth Day yesterday, and how it can do better by first calling upon young people and having such discussions. Meaningful engagement with the youth of this nation must be seen as a necessity, as many do not know or understand the President’s vision, and if growth and development are as important as are being said. If so, then it is time that the engine of growth and development be serviced.

Yours faithfully,

Clayon F Halley

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