National Youth Policy Launched

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Boosting the Youth
The National Youth Policy (2011) will unlock youth's potential.
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"Being young should be the best years of your life. It should be a time of exploration, discovery and personal growth. But, as the Cayman Islands experienced a terrible September in which we witnessed the death of five young people, we were all faced with the fact that somehow, many young people have a very different experience," said Minister of Youth the Hon. Mark Scotland at the launch of the National Youth Policy 2011.

The National Youth Policy (2011) will serve as the Cayman Islands’ Government’s guiding document for the formulation of youth legislation, sub-policy, regulations and programmes. It establishes goals, objectives and strategies intended to mitigate existing and potential areas of concern with regards to youth.

Policymakers believe that the document is vital to national development, as it highlights actions needed to create, foster and sustain an evolving Caymanian culture that embraces emerging global thought while harnessing certain intrinsically Caymanian characteristics. Such steps, they feel, are necessary to produce vibrant youth who are resilient to potential negative societal obstacles, socially and politically informed, as well as environmentally aware.

The National Youth Policy (2011) is the product of careful research, extensive stakeholder meetings and focused discussions which included the youth of the Cayman Islands. It contains guiding goals and objectives which I believe will give renewed direction to all our youth services providers, noted Minister Scotland.

Here follows his entire message as delivered at the launch:

Being young should be the best years of your life. It should be a time of exploration, discovery and personal growth. But, as the Cayman Islands experienced a terrible few weeks in September with the senseless murders of five young men, we were all faced with the fact that somehow, some young people have a very different experience.


However, even as we contemplate just how it got to this, it is important that we do not miss the fact that the majority of our young people are willing and able to be productive young citizens. If you take the time to read the report on the National Youth Commission’s recent student survey as well as the Cayman Islands Youth Assembly Action Papers, you will find that our young people are articulate and show remarkable insight into their own situation.

They tell us that crime and violence is of great concern to them, they tell us they want to do better in school, and they tell us that they want to be part of the community. They pose questions and offer solutions, but most of all they ask for our help.

They ask for opportunities to become well-rounded individuals; they ask for 21st century education that will open doors for them – locally and globally, and they ask for career advice and guidance that will steer them to success. They also ask for inspiration to make the right choices; for role models that will help them develop the right values; and they ask for mentors that will help them establish a strong cultural identity. The National Youth Policy (2011) speaks directly to all these needs.

 Moreover, the National Youth Policy (2011) calls for more collaboration. The 2009 Youth Directory lists over fifty organizations and programmes that cater for our young people, but we must ensure that these programmes are relevant – they must be what our youth want and need – and they have to be concerted.  In this regard, the National Youth Policy 2011 includes as a specific goal the alignment of government youth policies and coordination of youth programme delivery.

My Ministry will immediately start to realize this goal by appointing an Inter-Ministerial Committee on Youth. This high-level body will work to improve the coordination and collaboration between agencies. It will also ensure that resources go where they are needed, when they are needed. This committee will meet regularly to firstly ensure that we are moving forward on youth related matters and secondly guarantee that we are moving forward in the right direction.

Other initiatives that will immediately flow from this policy are the development of multi-faceted national anti-violence programme which will include initiatives to deal with bullying and conflict resolution techniques.  The National Drug Council which falls under my Ministry has developed a National Anti-Drug Strategy and they are now actively devising (in collaboration with the Education Ministry) a substance abuse curriculum for presentation in schools.

The National Youth Policy (2011) is the product of careful research, extensive stakeholder meetings and focused discussions which included the youth of the Cayman Islands and it is hoped that it will give renewed direction to all our youth services providers.

Between this document, other studies and surveys and the work done by the Ministries of Education and Community Affairs, we have clearly identified the issues. We know what the details of the problems are. And now, thanks to the work of the National Youth Commission and its Steering Committee, we also have clear goals and objectives to address these difficulties.

These goals and objectives do not seek to reinvent the wheel but rather to build upon the work, studies and recommendations of the past through multi-sectoral collaboration.

Many pro-active and collaborative efforts are already underway: Some of the newer initiatives include BEST, which is a multi-agency early intervention programme for school students and Passport2Success for young jobseekers. The Ministry of Education has also launched the B-TEC training initiative and the Premier’s Office is looking at creating an on-island hospitality training programme. As for my Ministry, we are currently working with more than thirty youth organizations, groups and programmes.

In addition, we support numerous sports development initiatives which have already borne fruit such as the sailing, rugby and football programmes. We have also supported the churches’ youth programmes over a number of years and we will continue to do so. We have also collaborated with the Ministry of education to expand and extend the times of the after-school programs we support so as to accommodate more youth in the 3:00 to 6:00 time period and this year we will offering a number of training programs to up-skill those youth groups we partner with.

Today is Caribbean Youth Day with the theme “One Caribbean- See the future through the  eyes of our youth” As we launch this National Youth Policy, I note that the theme is very much reflected in the approach taken by the drafters of this Policy and I would like to thank everyone who had a hand in developing this policy document – those who attended the National Youth Commission Stakeholder Conference including our long standing youth development partners, as well as everyone else who gave their input formally and informally. Special thanks to the National Youth Commission and the National Youth Policy Steering Committee who spearheaded the process.

However, the work is not done yet. The next step is to finalise the action plans for realizing our goals. This is expected to be a collaborative effort and one of the first deliverables of the Inter Ministerial Committee on Youth

Our youth is our future. As clichéd as that might sound, it is true and underscores the fact that our efforts here are not an option. There are also no quick fixes, keeping our youth on track is a long-term commitment.

With this in mind now, I want to throw out a few challenges. The first one goes to the business community: I ask that you reflect on your role in addressing youth concerns. Is your only motivation your bottom line for the next 2 or 3 years? Or is it the bottom line over the next 30 to 50 years?

Consider giving staff time-off to do more volunteering; sponsor a youth group and other community initiatives; develop an internship or apprenticeship programme and devise flex time to help single parents to spend more time with their children. I myself will be recommending the same to Government so we can lead by example on this.

The second challenge goes to our non-governmental partners who provide youth services, especially the churches. Expand your community outreach programmes go out into your communities,find out who the young people at risk are, get to know their families and invite them into your programmes. There has always been a close relationship between the Church and the Government in the Cayman Islands and the study of the Bible is a very good foundation to teach life’s lessons to young people but I also encourage our youth workers to take advantage of specific skill training that is offered locally.

Enroll in the Youth Worker course at the University College of the Cayman Islands – a fantastic programme developed in tandem with the Commonwealth Youth Centre. Sign up for conflict resolution classes or take part in a Darkness-to-Light course which teaches how to deal with domestic abuse. The opportunities are there, I encourage you to take them! If you are not sure what is available call our Ministry.

The final challenge goes to parents, family members and neighbours. Spend time with young people: Listen to their fears, doubts and dreams. Nothing can replace simply spending time with your children. As one of our foremost youth advocates, Miss Joyce Hylton, so aptly observed: “Now is the time for passing on values to the child, and this can only be done through dialogue”. And if you see a child in need, talk to an experienced person, be it a teacher, social worker or other government staff member. You might be surprised to learn how many resources are available to help our children.

Let us all join forces and keep investing in our young people – not as problems to be solved, but as opportunities to be seized.

I am proud today to launch the 2011 National Youth Policy and look forward to it being the blue print for Youth development for the next ten years.  As a Government we will work collaboratively across Ministries and portfolios to implement this policy and I look forward to partnering with the Private Sector, the Churches, Services Organisations, NGOs and other remembers of the public in delivering a better future for our current and future generations.

 

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