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Concerns of the youth dominated the Chamber of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC), on November 22, as 43 students from various high schools in the Municipality participated in the 2012 Junior Council Forum.

The students debated seven Resolutions that were brought before the mock Junior Council, chaired by newly robed Junior Mayor, Russell Barrett, of Calabar High School, who thanked his parents, school and Junior Councillors for their support.

Resolutions ranged from a call on the KSAC to remove the chronic vending from the gate of the Calabar High School, to a call for the repair of damaged roads in the community of Dallas Castle.

The most hotly debated of the resolutions was that which called on the KSAC to ask the relevant authorities to remove the shift system from Primary and Secondary educational institutions. The resolution was brought by Junior Councillor, Daniel Dennis, who used his experience as a student on the shift system at Papine High School, to make an  appeal for support. He further moved that a copy of the resolution be forwarded to the Ministry of Education and be circulated to the other parish councils.

Councillor Daniel outlined several negative effects of the shift system, citing consistent conflicts with the sharing of resources, such as computers; less classroom time for the teaching of subjects; curtailed extra-curricular activities; loitering and idling by those on the early shift and exposure to dangers, such as sexual predators after dark. He informed also that there was an added economic cost to the parents of students who are on the late shift, as bus drivers tended to charge more to get them home in the nights.

The Resolution received majority support from the Council members. The objecting minority cited the current poor economic status of the country and its inability to find the necessary resources to change over the school system to single shifts at this time.

The Forum was aimed at promoting awareness among young people on matters relevant to local government and their communities and is part of Local Government Month celebrations. It was watched over by senior Council members, including Deputy Mayor, Councillor Andrew Swaby; Town Clerk, Errol Greene and several councillors who lent support to the junior representatives from their Divisions.

Speaking in an interview with JIS, Junior Mayor Russell Barrett, described the exercise as a learning process for which he is truly grateful. He noted that it is pertinent that people begin to get involved in Local Government and try to understand the system.

Junior Town Clerk, Christina James, Kingston Technical High School, said the exercise allowed her to gain confidence in self and gave her the opportunity to lead. It has also given her new understanding of the local government system.

"I now have a better understanding of the Council. At first I thought that they were just there to hold space. But being a part of the Council now, seeing the responsibilities, the duties, the countless efforts and problems that they face, it has given me the opportunity to see that the councilors are really important to society,” she said.

Meanwhile, Councillor Swaby, who acted on behalf of Her Worship the Mayor, Senator Councillor Angella Brown Burke, who is off the island, congratulated the youngsters for a successful meeting. He noted that they touched on some of the issues such as illicit vending and traffic movement, with which the senior council members have grappled.

“You were very clear in your thoughts and the way you expressed yourselves and we too as Councillors have gotten a firsthand view of the issues that affect you,” he said.

“I hope your experience here will help to shape you and shape your thinking as to how you see local government and your political directorate; that it will encourage you to look at politics as an opportunity, as a noble job; and I also hope that your experience here will guide you,” Mr. Swaby added.