Where there is a will, there’s always a way
Inadequacy of education, training and socialisation for young people, and related high unemployment are global problems.
In Jamaica they are particularly pronounced — often blamed for the country’s intolerably high crime rate.
To make matters worse, there is very little in terms of rehabilitation for those young people who have committed themselves on the wrong side of the law.
We are contemplating these issues in the context of two articles on the weekend which deal with youth training as a means of changing the pattern away from crime and antisocial behaviour.
A Jamaica Information Service story tells of a programme called ‘A New Path’ which targets juvenile wards of the State at correctional facilities. It is aimed at providing skills training and influencing behavioural change for marginalised youngsters (12-18-year-olds who have broken the law).
And in yesterday’s Sunday Observer, new president of the Mandeville-based Northern Caribbean University (NCU) Dr Lincoln Edwards outlined a drive to encourage Jamaicans to come together in funding education for their young people at NCU.
We are told that the programme for juvenile wards offers counselling, educational and vocational training, conflict resolution programmes, as well as opportunities for apprenticeship and internship. There are also music and sports aspects.
Managed by the Organization of American States and Trust for the Americas, the project is financed by the United States Agency for International Development at a cost of US$2.5 million.
Word from the leadership of the correctional services is that the programme has transformed the lives of juveniles and staff.
The news from Mandeville is that Dr Edwards is urging community financing partnerships with NCU which could enable thousands of “bright” young people who would not ordinarily be able to afford tertiary education to enter the Seventh-Day Adventist-operated university.
It forms part of a drive to boost student numbers at NCU, which has seen attendance drop in recent years to 3,200 from more than 6,000.
Dr Edwards believes that provided there is a will so to do, communities can underwrite educational costs for their young people through scholarships and grants, thereby distancing them from the lure of crime, scamming and delinquent behaviour. He visualises the development of industries on the NCU campus and properties, which would provide employment for students, allowing them to pay their bills; and entrepreneurial training so young people can start their own businesses.
Not surprisingly, Dr Edwards has started by lobbying the large and powerful Seventh-Day Adventist network of churches across the country. But he is also inviting the Government and the wider Jamaica to join hands.
This newspaper applauds initiatives such as that being carried out in the correctional centres as well as the innovative drive by the leadership at NCU. Jamaica’s problems are complex and very difficult to resolve but with clear thinking and decisive, united action, much can be achieved.