Leela Ramdeen, Chair, CCSJ & Director, CREDI
On August 12, the world will celebrate International Youth Day. It is worth noting aspects of the UN’s statement: “There are currently 1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24 in the world. This is the largest youth population ever. But 1 in 10 of the world’s children live in conflict zones and 24 million of them are out of school. Political instability, labour market challenges and limited space for political and civic participation have led to increasing isolation of youth in societies.” International Youth Day “serves as an annual celebration of the role of young women and men as essential partners in change, and an opportunity to raise awareness of challenges and problems facing the world’s youth.”
This year’s theme, Transforming Education, “highlights efforts to make education more inclusive and accessible for all youth, including efforts by youth themselves…International Youth Day 2019 will examine how Governments, young people and youth-led and youth-focused organizations, as well as other stakeholders, are transforming education so that it becomes a powerful tool to achieve the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.”
Goal 4 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals seeks to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all…education is a ‘development multiplier’ as it plays a pivotal role in accelerating progress across all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, be it poverty eradication, good health, gender equality, decent work and growth, reduced inequalities, action on climate or peaceful societies. Education should lead to relevant and effective learning outcomes, with the content of school curricula being fit for purpose, not only for the 4th industrial revolution and the future of work, but also for the opportunities— and challenges—that rapidly changing social contexts bring…In addition, comprehensive youth development benefits society-at-large. However, what is less known is the fact that young people themselves are active champions of inclusive and accessible education. Youth-led organizations, as well as individual youth, together with various stakeholders and Governments, are concretely transforming education so that it becomes a fundamental tool both for sustainable development and for the full inclusion of various social groups. For example, youth-led organizations are transforming education via lobbying and advocacy, partnerships with educational institutions, the development of complementary training programs, etc.”
We in T&T must seriously review our efforts to make education more inclusive and accessible for our youth—regardless of their race/ethnicity, gender or class. If we truly believe that education is a lifelong process, we cannot afford to give up on our youth. Think about how you can use your knowledge/skills to be a mentor/role model to youth e.g. in your street/community. What about joining/supporting NGOs/organisations such as ALTA (Adult Literacy Tutors Association), Youth Clubs, TT Youth Council etc.? All you youth who are excelling, help to “pull up” those who need assistance. Parents and faith communities have much work to do to instil in their children/followers values and virtues that are essential to educational transformation. We need all hands on deck to build the common good.
And while we have some excellent teachers/educators, there are those who fail to meet the standards required for effective teaching and learning. An honest assessment of our current education system would lead us to accept that we are not preparing youth for life today. “As educators in an increasingly digital world, it is important we do what we can at school to bridge any gaps between the personal and educational or professional digital worlds of our students” (Teaching with ICT: Digital Pedagogies for collaboration & creativity Howell, J 2012).
My biggest plea is to our politicians. T&T comprises some very bright people. Can we not put our heads together to identify/implement strategies to help pull some of our youth back from the brink and create conditions so that all of them can thrive/flourish? There are countries engaging in public private partnerships to promote quality education. Can we learn from them by e.g. creating internships? Is our OJT system working effectively? And what about our at-risk/vulnerable youth and those who drop out of school or are failing in school? If we believe that our youth matter, we will pull out all stops to do well by them.
On their own, legislation to deal with gangs, drugs, guns, etc will be ineffective unless our vision embraces an inter-sectoral approach to transform education and Trinidad and Tobago. Crime and violence, poverty and social exclusion, poor health care, inadequate transportation system, unemployment/underemployment, inadequate housing etc all impact educational life chances.
Our youth deserve better!