Guyana’s young people are largely forgotten

Young people are largely forgotten

JULY 8, 2014 | BY  | EDITORIAL

Half of Guyana’s population (about 50.9 per cent) is below the age of 24. And more than one-third (about 36.9 per cent) is between 25 and 54 years of age. The government, however, persists in the non-implementation of a coherent national policy to cater to the needs of this large number of young Guyanese.

Young people are the nation’s future but they face monumental challenges. The spate of suicides among adolescents, the rising number of teenage pregnancies, the large number of school dropouts, the unavailability of new job opportunities, the reports of their being victims of police brutality and torture, the huge prison population (of which youth are said to comprise 75 per cent) and the predicament of juveniles in the New Opportunity Corps are all signs of a dangerous and deteriorating social situation.

The Minister of Culture, Youth and Sport publicly announced on several occasions that the National Youth Policy would be reviewed. The problem is that he has promulgated no such ‘Policy.’ The result has been that youths continue to face difficult lives in the land of their birth.

The single biggest problem at the national level, with dire implications for the future, has been the growing number of illiterate and innumerate youths. The Ministry of Education reports that nearly 7,000 children drop out of our primary and secondary schools every year.

Youths who do not complete their basic education satisfactorily will find it difficult to get jobs. Joblessness among young people in the Caribbean Community, at an average of 23 per cent, is higher than many other developed and developing countries. The majority of young university graduates in Guyana, unable to find employment, are forced to migrate or remain out-of-work.

The National Employment Report published by the International Labour Organisation, estimated that, based on Guyana’s Household Income and Expenditure Survey which was last undertaken over a decade ago, about 44 per cent of the population of working age are “not economically active.” This situation has arisen, in part, because the ‘one-size-fits-all’ education model has failed. For many students, it has little relevance to the needs in the communities in which they live.

The economies of most regions, for example, are based on farming and fishing. There is also a great need for the expansion of public physical infrastructure such as airstrips, bridges, roads and stellings.  The education system therefore, should emphasise agricultural, engineering and technology so that school-leavers could be equipped with the skills to enable them to live and work comfortably in their areas of residence. It does not.

The government is aware of the mismatch between education and employment. Its response, in the absence of a coherent policy, however, has been hopelessly haphazard. Five government ministries – the Ministry of Amerindian Affairs; Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport; Ministry of Education; Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Labour – jostle each other to offer a variety of unrelated, short-term training courses all aimed at unemployed, out-of-school young people. They all promise but do not provide, the long-term careers that youths desperately seek.

The Ministry of Amerindian Affairs conducts a multi-million dollar Youth Apprenticeship and Entrepreneur Programme (YAEP).  The Ministry of Culture Youth and Sport conducts the Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Training (YEST) programme. The Ministry of Home Affairs offers training in what it calls “life skills” under its Citizen Security Programme (CSP).

The Ministry of Labour conducts a two-year programme called the National Training Project for Youth Empowerment (NTPYE). Programmes such as the President’s Youth Choice initiative (PYCI) and the President’s Youth Award Republic of Guyana (PYARG) have failed long ago. They had little impact on youths over the years.

There are many programmes but there has been little progress in solving the problems facing young people. Despite the ferment of initiatives – CSP; NTPYE; PYCI; PYARG; YAEP and YEST – there have been few new job opportunities.

Too many Guyanese youths still leave school unskilled, enter the workforce for the first time and are obliged to resort to the informal sector for employment in low-paying occupations.  Four out of every ten youths face a jobless future.

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  • Restorer  On 07/08/2014 at 3:09 pm

    An enhanced Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET ) sector is the key. There should be a ministry dedicated to this and not just an office in the Ministry of Education. If this is done, there is adequate provision to constantly review the labour market, identify skilled needs, job creation that targets development in the various sectors etc. The will exists and the basic framework is there, but not enough funding is placed therein. Rather than just having a state planning unit in Ministry of Finance, planning and national development needs resources and a separate entitity. Another area that is needed is Hinterland development. Talk about jobs. I we develop these areas, we’ll find we have more jobs than people to fill them.

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