KINGSTON — Commonwealth Secretary-General, His Excellency Kamalesh Sharma, says the Commonwealth Secretariat will be commissioning a baseline study to assess issues associated with the underachievement of boys in the Caribbean.
He said the study, which will be conducted in over 30 schools in three countries – Jamaica, St. Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago- will seek to find solutions to what has become a growing concern.
“In Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean, there is a special problem of boys’ underachievement, and the Commonwealth is very much concerned about this. We’re going to do…deep analytical work in these schools to see what it is, as far as schools are concerned, that can be done in order to rectify this,” Mr. Sharma said.
He said the Commonwealth has conducted previous studies on the issue, which were discussed last month at the Commonwealth Caribbean Conference held under the theme, ‘Investing in Youth Employment’. A similar conference is being planned for Jamaica.
The Secretary General was speaking at the Partnering for Youth Employment seminar, at the Advantage General Lounge, New Kingston on Tuesday (June 14).
The seminar, which was also attended by Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture, Hon Olivia Grange, gave an opportunity to youths and youth-serving organisations to share and discuss the challenges, opportunities and successes in youth employment and entrepreneurship in Jamaica. It also sought to discuss how the Commonwealth can assist Jamaica in this area.
Mr. Sharma stated that the Commonwealth has placed much focus on the issue of youth employment and entrepreneurship, over the past years, and that the matter would top his list of concerns during his six-day visit to the Caribbean.
He stated that the Commonwealth was working on two main initiatives geared towards youth employment and entrepreneurship, namely the Youth Enterprise Initiative and an internet gateway called, ‘Commonwealth Connects’.
“Through the YEI, the Commonwealth encourages banks to have a lending programme for young people. And, because mentoring and incubation is required, this will be a professional programme, which will also embrace your trading and industry bodies, to make sure that the programme is successful, through the participation of all those that are involved in it,” he explained.
He also argued that one of the main challenges of youth entrepreneurship is to find financial institutions willing to do serious business with young people.
“It becomes a challenge for this generation to see that financial institutions are opened up and redesigned to admit younger people. And, also for the younger people from the outside to see them as youth friendly, welcoming and accessible organisations that are thinking about them all the time,” he stated.
He said one of his main assignments is to create a network of ‘youth-friendly’ financial, trade and industry institutions within the Commonwealth, that are prepared to participate in the project.
“If you can trust your future with the young people of your country, then surely it should be possible to trust them with your money, as well,” he remarked.
Mr. Sharma has met with representatives of the banking federation and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), regarding the project, and said there was a very positive reaction.
Regarding ‘Commonwealth Connects’, the Secretary-General said the programme would seek to increase connectivity within the Commonwealth.
“We’ve had Caricom for many years, but many of the plans and programmes of Caricom depend on the degree of connectivity that exists within Caricom. If that is this challenge within one region, you can imagine what the challenge is within the Commonwealth as a whole. But, every challenge is a huge opportunity,” he remarked.
“We always see the glass half full and the opportunity before us, because one of the features of the Commonwealth is how capabilities are coming up in our member states, so you have to create a platform for sharing those capabilities,” he stated.
Mr. Sharma arrived in Jamaica on Tuesday. Following his visit here, he is scheduled to visit Dominica and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
In, Jamaica, he has already met the Prime Minister, Hon. Bruce Golding, and other members of the Cabinet, as well as Leader of the Opposition, the Most Hon. Portia Simpson Miller, and representatives of the private sector and young people.
During the remainder of his visit to the region, Mr. Sharma will call on the Prime Minister of Dominica, Hon Roosevelt Skerrit and the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, to discuss priorities for the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), scheduled for Perth, Australia in October 2011.
He will also brief them on the progress on mandates from the last leaders’ meeting in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, in 2009, such as the Network of Election Management Bodies and the Commonwealth internet gateway, known as ‘Commonwealth Connects’.
Mr. Sharma, an Indian diplomat, became Commonwealth Secretary-General on April 1, 2008. He was appointed to the post by Commonwealth Heads of Government at their meeting in Kampala, Uganda, in November 2007. Hepreviously served as India’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, where he was closely involved in Commonwealth activities. He has served as a member of the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth Secretariat and the Commonwealth Foundation.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter