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Gifted young people could face a jobless future unless the structures and systems intended for their employment, empowerment and entrepreneurship are re-built, says former President David Granger.
Making an appeal on his Public Interest programme for a ‘reset’ of national youth policy, the former President lamented that young people were being robbed of the opportunity for self-development by the PPP/C administration’s cold-blooded closure of the Guyana Youth Corps (GYC) and the Bertram Collins College of the Public Service – two important institutions which trained young people in skills for real employment.
Mr. Granger also criticised the dissolution of the Sustainable Livelihoods and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED) initiative, the Hinterland Employment and Youth Service (HEYS) and the Public Education Transportation Service (PETS) which provided free bicycles, boat- and bus- transportation (3 Bs) which actually assisted thousands of children to attend school.
The consequence of these closures and the pivoting of national youth policy from empowerment to entertainment is becoming more evident daily. The sad fact is that young people have come to constitute 67 per cent of the prison population while a few others are detained in the Juvenile Detention Centre (at Sophia) and the New Opportunity Corps (at Onderneeming), Mr. Granger lamented.
The proportion of young men and women not in employment, education or training (NEET) has risen to about 36 per cent of whom 46 per cent were women. About 6,000 persons drop out of primary, secondary, technical and vocational institutions annually and failure rates in the NGSA examinations – in English, Mathematics, Science and Social Studies – remain unacceptably high.
The Central Government needs to move away from short-term, ephemeral projects and move towards restoring sustainable structures for employment and entrepreneurship and for ensuring educational opportunities for out-of-school youth, Mr. Granger said.
This decade should be a real opportunity for transformational change, not transitory pastimes and trivial distractions. The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals − eliminating poverty; ensuring quality education; enforcing gender equality and reducing inequality and creating decent work and economic growth – are all attainable if we recognise that, inevitably, “the future of Guyana belongs to its young people,” he concluded.