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A number of schools in Kingston are to benefit from a youth leadership programme to be implemented by the British-funded Beacons of Progress and Achievement (BPA).
“We have worked on it and we are already prepared to have it in Kingston College and August Town Primary this September 2006,” said President of the organization Natalie Peterson, adding that the BPA was aiming to implement the programme in as many as eight schools by the start of the new school year.
She made the announcement at a function held yesterday (Aug.16) on the Old Hope Road campus of the University of Technology, to officially launch the BPA and to present certificates to children from the Windsor Heights community in St. Catherine, who had participated in a recently concluded pilot project.
According to programme coordinator, Linace Gordon, the $250,000 three-week summer pilot, which involved some 25 children ages three to six years, was borne out of the realization that youngsters in the age group were not constructively engaged during the months of summer. The aim, he said, was to “enhance the productive use of our toddlers and engender a spirit of industriousness and socially acceptable behaviour”.
“Being an inner-city person, one cannot help but notice how our youngest peers are left to idle day in and out and especially during summer. We realise that wasteful use of time from so early are factors which contribute to some of us becoming ineffective adults,” she added.
The children participated in a number of activities including dancing, art and craft, lesson in Spanish and socially acceptable behaviours, and a field trip.In her remarks at the function, Member of Parliament for North Central St. Catherine, Sharon Hay-Webster said, “we are already seeing the positives impacts of the programme in the community as it is involving community members of an early age and has been enforcing positive values and attitudes among them”, and has requested that the programme be sustained.
The BPA organisation has been in existence for four years through funding from the British High Commission as well as local sponsors, but has only recently begun to roll out its initiatives, which are aimed at creating a vibrant group of young leaders, especially in inner city communities, who can contribute solutions to minimizing crime and violence in the society.
“It is our belief that every young person, regardless of age, has a vital role to play in developing our society through crime reduction,” a release from the organization said. The BPA comes under the umbrella of the London-based Metropolitan Black Police Association, and is part of a larger group of young people, which include the Young Black Positive Advocates in Britain, as well as the South African Pop Crew and the Time Dollar Youth Court in Washington DC.
Acting British High Commissioner, Paul Nicolopulo, who was the guest speaker at the function, said the British Government saw the venture as mutually beneficial due to the link between crime in Jamaica and Britain. “We are trying to help inner-city communities adjust from semi-governance by gangsters to governance in accordance with the Jamaica’s constitution,” he stated. The High Commissioner noted that the venture was worthwhile, in that it would help “in the long term, to create better communities, which produce better citizens with skills and attitude and training to take advantage of opportunities”.
Meanwhile, Jamaican and English youth, during a live videoconferencing link, spoke about the adverse effects of declining family structure and unedifying musical lyrics on young people globally.
Following comments from youngsters, who attended the event, Mrs. Hay Webster spoke of the negative impact of hardcore dancehall lyrics that glorify violence and irresponsible sexual behaviour on teenagers, some of whom have become infected with HIV/AIDS.
She however pointed out that the government was being proactive in tackling some of these issues. On the matter of sexual education and disease prevention, the Member of Parliament said, “the Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology Programme in St. Catherine has an HIV support programme, which has a very strong antiretroviral programme, counselling and outreach”.
She pointed out that an important part of the government’s initiatives was prevention, “getting out the message of abstinence and responsible sexual behaviour”.