Ladies and Gentlemen, in 2012 this Ministry conducted a Qualitative Survey on the Situation of Youth in Jamaica.  Among the poignant and pointed views coming from participants in Focus Groups in St. Thomas as part of that survey was: Most of us are trying to find ourselves. We have no jobs. We are lost. We have no skills to deal with certain things and no forums to express ourselves. We are in a box…  A jus so di ting set.” 

“A jus so di ting set” manifests the resignation of young people for whom there is simply no way out, for whom the systems of engagement offer no chance of successful outcome. This is a fundamental statement that requires an equally fundamental response as it is dangerous and unhealthy for a society to continue to function in an atmosphere where its young people, who are the future of the country, have basically given up on the society that they will inevitably lead.

As we kick-start our Youth Month 2013 activities, we are faced with an important opportunity to recalibrate the youth agenda to make it more responsive and relevant to the current challenges facing our young people.  To achieve this, we must provide our youth, while talented, bold and resilient, with the meaningful support, care and protection of institutions such as the church, civil society, parents and families.

I say meaningful support because while most of us are willing to provide support, the bigger and more important question is whether that support will lead to positive change in the lives of youth. Will it empower and motivate them? Will it give them the necessary tools needed to propel them to success?

These are some of the questions we asked ourselves and sought to answer at the Ministry and which caused us to recognize that if we are to make a meaningful impact, we need to have the courage to do things differently. The truth is, it cannot be business as usual in the promotion and process of Youth Development.  A large number of our youth are jaded, de-motivated and indifferent to the systems and policies of society. They don’t believe that these systems and policies will contribute to their wholesome development or propel them to success. For many of our youth – ‘a just so di ting set’.

Therefore, a major part of the solution is the need to convince and empower our young people to adopt a different and more dynamic mindset, one that exhibits attitudes that embrace the possibilities for positive change in their circumstances through hard work, preparation and healthy social interaction. There is a sense in which their own social and economic liberation must start with a belief that the ‘system’ can change, can work for them and is not set against them in perpetuity.

The Ministry of Youth and Culture and its agencies are very conscious that the solution will require more than a mere programmatic shift.  It will instead require a re-setting of their mindsets and of the approaches taken by Government and various organizations.  If we are to build on the achievements of the youth we are mandated to serve, and instil within them a culture of excellence where they will have every opportunity to achieve their fullest potential, we will have to not only ‘reset di ting’, but make our youth believe that they can ‘re-set di ting’.

What we are hoping to achieve and action, is a transformation of the way we do things.  We know it will not be easy but we are assured it is necessary. As the person chosen to lead our future leaders I am cognisant that I cannot do it alone.  My Ministry cannot do it alone.   It will require the active input of all Jamaicans in a new construct of building each other up rather than tearing each other down, in a new dynamic of cooperation and support rather than division and malevolence. It is to start new conversations for change that will require courage, vision and the right attitude.

It is a process that will involve, as was posited by philosopher and Princeton professor Cornel West in his New York Times article entitled: “Marcus Garvey weeps from the Grave,” a “revolution in our priorities, a re-evaluation of our values, a reinvigoration of our public life and a fundamental transformation of our way of thinking and living that promotes a transfer of power from government, leaders and tycoons among us to everyday people and ordinary citizens”. We will all, as citizens of this country, need to know and believe that success is achievable by everyone.

As a Ministry we understand that a month is not enough time to create the change we wish to see.  For this reason, this year’s Youth Month activities will be the beginning of a yearlong programme that will feed into a five year strategic plan informed by the 2012 Qualitative Survey on the Situation of Youth in Jamaica and the roll out of the revised National Youth Policy 2013.

For this Youth Month we will embark on a number of activities. These include:

  • Interfaith Service, Girl Guides Headquarters, Nov. 3, 4:00 pm
  • National Launch and Empowerment Fair, Mandeville, Nov .7, 2:30 pm
  • Pon Di Corner Reasoning, Downtown Kingston & Highgate, St. Mary, Nov. 12 & 23, 3:00 pm
  • Youth Dialogue for Action Conference, Nov. 20, 9:00 am
  • Youth Enterprise Challenge, Jamaica Pegasus, Nov. 20, 6:00 pm
  • Children in State Care Awards Ceremony, Nov. 22, 1:00 pm

Additionally, the National Youth Service, an agency of the Ministry of Youth and Culture, will undertake some specific activities during Youth Month.

  • We have identified 40 projects island-wide in which NYS volunteers will be involved, the focus of which will be on Children’s Homes, Community Centres, among others.
  • As follow-on to this, NYS will retain a corps of volunteers to give support in selected Children’s Homes.
  • In consultation with the Child Development Agency, the NYS will contract five (5) life coaches who will work with five (5) selected Homes to support young persons who are about to transition out of the Homes into independent adult living and who are seeking to do post secondary training.
  • The NYS will also seek proposals for innovative youth programmes from existing NGOs, CBOs to implement programmes in the following areas: Youth Training and Certification and Youth At Risk Extended Engagement.  Bidders must have the capacity to implement the projects within the specified time period.

Further, under the Graduate Work Experience Programme (GWEP) the first 100 graduates will begin employment on November 18 this year. A total of 300 graduates are expected to be trained through this Project, six (6) times more than the initial amount that was stated in my Sectoral Presentation in June. This I am very pleased about.

Through our Youth Information Centres (YICs), the National Centre for Youth Development (NCYD), a number of youth workshops and expos will take place across the island and we are pleased to announce that the National Youth Council Elections will commence on November 30. These elections have not been held since 2010.

To civil society – let’s reset the conversations that take place among our youth and among Jamaicans to that which promote the courage to do things differently.

To our youth –  I say ‘reset di ting’ and show your peers that they are a powerful force whose potential knows no bounds, whose input is critical for nation building and whose voice is one that matters and can bring about positive change.

To Jamaica – Now is the time to reset di ting and build the Jamaica we wish to see by building those who are being charged with its future.

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