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A series of national consultations on, ‘The Professionalization of Youth Development Work in Jamaica’, was launched in the Montego Bay Civic Centre, Sam Sharpe Square, Montego Bay, today (January 18).
The Montego Bay consultation is the first of three, which will be held across the island, hosted by the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD) and the National Council on Technical Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET).
Regional Director of the Commonwealth Youth Programme, Caribbean Centre, Henry Charles, who spoke at the launch, described Jamaica’s hosting of the series of consultations as a tangible demonstration of the country’s commitment to four important imperatives of a transformational approach to youth development.
These include the adoption of a participatory approach; the need to build effective partnerships; adoption of a professional approach to youth development work; and adoption of a strategic approach to youth development.
Mr. Charles, a St. Lucian, said that in recent times there has been growing panic within the region regarding the negative manifestations of youth socialization and development. This, he said, has put regional governments under increasing pressure to formulate and implement effective strategies to address this perceived crisis in youth development.
“The truth is that youth development in the Caribbean has assumed a far more complex and challenging character over the last two decades. The prevailing economic, social and political ethos have not only conspired to undermine the capacity of the state to effectively perform its role as a facilitator of economic and social justice, but has also diminish the prevalence of traditional modes of socialization and indeed the influence of institutions, such as the family, the church, schools and of many other civic organizations,” he said.
Mr. Charles said that despite the ever changing and challenging socio-economic, socio-political and socio-cultural environment, many young people in the region continued to make significant contributions to the development of their communities and societies.
Pointing out that most governments in the region have demonstrated some measure of concern for the youth, Mr. Charles described the response of some governments toward youth development challenges as “social-welfarist and sporadic in nature”.
He proposed that a paradigm shift be made from this social-welfarist approach to a transformational approach, and outlined the characteristics of the transformational approach that he is advocating.
“First of all, it demands an evidenced-based approach to youth work, that is, we must abandon the idea of our youth work strategies being informed mainly by myths, emotions and stereotyping. Our strategies should be based upon empirical data and truth,” he said.
“Secondly we must adopt a rights-based approach to youth development. We must disabuse our minds of the idea that young people are problems to be addressed, and instead embrace the fact that they, like any other citizen, have a right to sustainable livelihoods, and that they also have a right to advocate their needs, desires, fears, and opinions, and further must be accorded appropriate and adequate opportunities to fulfill their needs and aspirations,” Mr. Charles added.
He stressed that a strategic approach to youth development was overdue, an approach which required the formulation of a strategic youth development plan, which included a clear vision, definable and attainable goals and objectives, along with precise performance indicators and credible evaluation strategies. He said that the vision and goals of this strategic plan must be aligned to the broader development goals.
Project specialist with the NCYD, Mary Dodman, informed that the series of consultations would continue on January 23, in Junction, St. Elizabeth, and on January 25, in Kingston.
Many young persons, educators and stakeholders representing several youth and civic organizations attended the launch.