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Letter of the Day | After Youth Parliament speech, what’s next?

Published:Thursday | November 30, 2023 | 12:07 AM

THE EDITOR, Madam:

The prime minister has beckoned the engagement of young, brilliant minds to shape policies and steer ministries towards a progressive path of growth and development, a striking tale.

The heartbeat of youth empowerment resonates through the National Youth Parliament of Jamaica. Nearly 1,000 young, brilliant minds have been given the opportunity to articulate practical solutions to pressing issues ranging from crime and violence to parenting and education, electronic voting, and mental health.

The Ministry of Education hosted the 14th sitting of the National Youth Parliament on November 27; however, a question lingers – what follows the youth parliamentary speeches?

Meticulously researched policy papers were drafted, presented, and then submitted to the National Youth Council of Jamaica – a conduit that was expected to channel these transformative ideas to the Ministry of Education for thoughtful consideration and implementation. Yet, the fate of these proposals seems to be that of lost files, languishing in the purgatory of pending consideration. The question persists: Is the Government truly listening?

In an interview with the Jamaica Information Service, Robert Nesta Morgan expressed excitement over a record-breaking 1,000 applications received in 2021. “This tells us that our youth are engaged and want to be heard. We will listen, and we will act on their recommendations,” he declared. However, the crucial inquiry remains: Are they truly hearing us?

I recall my address to the Youth Parliament at last year’s sitting. My focus was on the perennial crisis of housing and squatter settlements in Jamaica. I proposed a five-year amnesty aimed at formalising and regularising settlements, but the challenges of affordable housing for the younger generation remained a pressing concern. Colleagues presented equally pragmatic solutions, such as raising the National Housing Trust (NHT) threshold to $13 million and maintaining the current interest rate – reallocating the NHT surplus to its intended purpose: providing starter homes for low-income earners.

This year, as the anticipation builds for discussions on financial literacy and education transformation, constitutional reform and public education, crime and violence among youths, and underemployment through holistic education for labour market readiness, the stakes are high. These are substantive topics with the power to usher in policy changes within the Ministry of Education. The hope is that this year’s submissions will not suffer the fate of being ignored, sidelined, or relegated to the status of ‘lost files’.

If the Government of Jamaica is genuinely committed to the sustainability of youthful involvement in the democratic and governance structures, the Ministry of Education and Youth must transcend rhetoric. It’s time to demonstrate unequivocally that our parliamentary contributions are not mere tokens, but powerful catalysts for change, as pledged by Minister Morgan. Let us uphold the objectives of the National Youth Policy 2017-2030, positioning our youth at the forefront of the National Development Agenda to achieve Vision 2023.

KEVAR BENNETT

Junior Shadow Spokesperson

on Housing and Sustainable

Living