THE announcement in the Governor General’s recent Throne Speech confirming that government is willing to exert the political will to establish a National Youth Service (NYS) here was definitely among the most resonating facets of that address for the several unrelenting and indefatigable advocates of this initiative.
It was momentous for those who have lobbied for this day to come to fruition. In a country where issues underpinning youth development are often cause for sighs of despair and sadness, this announcement has created a cautious ripple of optimism across the country for the future of the disadvantaged youth. The people need a government that listens, and works diligently to implement solutions that will resolve issues. The National Youth Service is indeed a case in point.
Many more measures that are tailored to help meet the needs of Saint Lucia’s youth need to be considered. While it is good to continue to build on existing accomplishments, the government must not allow this decision to lag behind or to become shelved on the basis that resources are scant. Timeliness is everything. Now is the time. The country can no longer afford the luxury of procrastinating when there is nothing else to turn to –the interventions to deal with youth issues are either absent or woefully lacking.
To complement the National Youth Service initiative, government policy that influences youth based initiatives needs to be assessed, modernized and tailored to address both the emerging and perennial challenges confronting young people.
If resources are once again the stumbling block, then government’s management of its finances has to be recalibrated in a manner that will meaningfully serve the best interest of its main constituents, although understandably, not to the exclusion of other sectors. However, citizens can be sensitized about the importance of this investment which if not undertaken, will inevitably cost the country more incidents of crime and further losses in human capital. The NYS can be achieved. Hopefully youth organizations and civil society will add their voices to this cause and lobby the government to make it a priority.
Longevity is of absolute necessity and as such the NYS can comprise some elements of sustainability. In this context sustainability means providing long-term solutions to community needs that the beneficiaries can maintain after grant or government funding ends. For example programmes that engage participants in Technical /Vocational, ICT or farming initiatives can incorporate ways of generating some returns.
The government has been called on in the past, to examine ways of implementing programmes that carry revenue generating potential. Now more than ever, this prospect must be weaved into plans for the national good, in order to stand a chance of having a positive impact and making that critically needed difference for the youth and nation.