THE youth of any society are indeed the future of that society, thus it is imperative that the young men and women of Barbados see themselves as able-bodied members of this country, capable of contributing to its sustained growth and development. It is only through the adoption of this mentality by the youth that the preservation and advancement of Barbadian society can be ensured.
Indeed, the generations that have come and gone before, particularly those in the pre-independence period of this nation, must have realised the stark reality that it was up to them to mould Barbadian society in their own likeness and image. One young person in this pre-independence period who certainly realised this and stepped up to the task at hand was The Rt. Excellent Errol Barrow. Realising the problems facing the country, Mr. Barrow can be seen from an early age to have made it his mandate to improve the lives of ordinary Barbadians. As such, despite the passing of time, he remains as ever an exemplary role model for all young persons within Barbados to look to for inspiration.
Mr. Barrow laid the modern foundation for youth empowerment within Barbados, particularly within the sphere of education. It was his philosophy that the way to overcome the vagaries of poverty within Barbados at the time was through education, and without a shadow of a doubt his efforts have been successful. Despite the recent changes in the education policy regarding tertiary education, this government remains committed to ensuring that every young person within Barbados has access to an affordable tertiary education. Indeed, it was under the Democratic Labour Party that the central tenets of social policy which allowed young persons to better themselves were introduced. These include: free school meals, free bus fare, the text book loan scheme etc.
From the examples given above it clear to see that a solid framework and policy geared towards the advancement of young people within Barbados exists. However, it is imperative that the young people accept their responsibility for ensuring the advancement of themselves; a framework without willing participants will achieve nothing. Of concern is the sense of lawlessness and hopelessness demonstrated by a small faction of the youth in this country, illustrated through some of the young men and women involved in crime, drug abuse, and other unwholesome behaviours.
Thankfully, this government has responded to these challenges not by implementing punitive measures towards these youths who have gone astray, but have shifted the response to one of rehabilitation. As a matter of fact, the establishment of a drug treatment court, access to government counselling and rehabilitation services are all indicative of a government committed to ensuring that no young person is left destitute in this society.
Despite some of the challenges facing the youth, it is pleasing to see that the majority continue to excel in their chosen fields and disciplines. Of note is the high calibre of young individuals stepping forward in the cultural industry. Indeed, Barbados is making valiant strides in the fostering of a local film industry, the performing arts, and an emergence of a unique Barbadian style of art and craft has finally begun to emerge all through the efforts of our vibrant young people. Furthermore, it is harkening to see young humanitarians within the society emerging and playing their role in being their brothers’ keepers. Many of these young humanitarians are concerned with helping the less fortunate, especially those who have fallen homeless – establishing feeding programmes for the less fortunate and working with persons with disabilities. The efforts of these young persons deserve hearty commendation and admiration.
It can be concluded that a proper youth policy exists within Barbados; it is meeting and responding to the needs of young people, and is well designed to ensure the continued prosperity of this nation. However, some prophets of doom and gloom lurk within this island seeking to tear the youth apart and fill them with a sense of hopelessness, all for the sake of quick power gains. This ploy must never be allowed to come to fruition. Young people must continue to see through these ill-conceived ploys in order to continue to make the valiant strides within society which they have been making.