Focusing on the youth

Monday was International Youth Day observed in countries around the world, though not given the national focus this year it has received in previous years.

In December 1999, the United Nations (UN) General Assembly endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers Responsible for Youth that August 12 would be declared International Youth Day.

International Youth Day is commemorated to bring youth issues to the attention of the international community and to celebrate the potential of youth as partners in today’s global society, according to the UN.

From representing our flag with excellence around the world, to making their mark in academics, the arts, and civil society here at home, young Bahamians continue to shine as a beacon of hope and promise despite the many challenges they face in today’s ever-changing world.

When the youth of The Bahamas is spoken of, it is almost always in the context of their being the future of the nation, but the reality is that young Bahamians are not only the future but the very obvious present.

Current initiatives geared toward encouraging youth entrepreneurship through government grants and sponsorships are to be commended. We congratulate the recipients and wish them every success. Expanded access to post-secondary and pre-school education will also hopefully return to the country positive dividends over time.

While these programs are being celebrated, other key decisions by the government point to a level of shortsightedness in the focus on the nation’s youth.

National programs that cater to the mental, physical, social and intellectual development of thousands of young Bahamians throughout the country are regrettably reporting reduced budget allocations this fiscal year.

These youth programs are the starter initiatives that develop young people into would-be entrepreneurs, and they help to build character, leadership skills, discipline and camaraderie with youngsters both at home and abroad.

They also instill a sense of community service and a critical appreciation for music and the arts.

Budget reductions are reported in the following categories: National Youth Leaders/Workers; the National Youth Push program; National Youth Programmes; Youth Enterprise Fund; Aid to Student-Athletes; Contributions to Sports, Civic and Youth Organizations; the Bahamas National Youth Council; Subvention to Elite Athletes; the National Sports Authority; and the National Endowment for Sports.

Other youth programs have had the same budget allocation for years, with the line on spending held this fiscal year as opposed to providing more funding to these key initiatives including the Junior Achievement Programme; Girl Guides Association; Boys Brigade; Boy Scouts Association; Bahamas National Youth Choir; Bahamas National Youth Orchestra; and the Bahamas Concert Orchestra.

With additional funding, these programs would be able to reach out to more of our young people and expand their services and opportunities to the nation’s youth.

This is especially important for youth from lower-income families who might otherwise not have the kind and quality of exposure and experience these programs offer.

A glaring nod to improvidence meantime, is the government’s second consecutive year of failing to award the National Honour of Order of Lignum Vitae.

The Order of Lignum Vitae is designated for Bahamians aged 25 and under.

That the government has not seen fit to choose from among our award-winning, brilliant and industrious young people an honoree in a category that was designed specifically for their age group is a disappointing testament to the compartmentalization that often occurs when high honors for Bahamians are being considered.

It is our hope that in future budget exercises, a demonstration of commitment to youth development at the earliest ages and beyond can be seen through increased funding to youth and sporting programs and programs for the arts.

And we urge the government not to allow a third National Honours Day to come without a deserving young Bahamian being given the national recognition that is due to him or her.

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