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Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones. (FP)

Barbados is counting on its youth to make a difference.

Minister of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation, Ronald Jones, stressed this last Saturday as he addressed those gathered at the Hilton Barbados for a Model United Nations simulation exercise. It was staged by Rotary Clubs in this country for secondary school students to debate the topic of climate change.

He said annually Government allocates the largest portion of its budget to education and investing in the lives of the youth so that they could excel.

"Even in these most challenging financial and economic times, I looked at the Estimates for the Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Innovation to see what we would have to spend, and even though there is a miniscule reduction, it still takes the largest share of the Government’s expenditure for young people, for the people of Barbados and, therefore, what you are doing here is a manifestation of that investment," Minister Jones disclosed.

While urging students to recognise the importance of being part of the debate, he noted that the youth today were better positioned than his generation to be in the forefront of serious and meaningful change in the world given they had the ability and opportunity to communicate and access knowledge in the "nano-instant".

Encouraging them to make the greatest use of such opportunities, he said: "There is a concern being expressed at different levels in Barbados that many of our young people are not making themselves fully aware of whatever happens across the world. That even though information and communication technology is so instant, that because of their own peculiar view, that they tend only to zero in on social media; not to learn, not to acquire knowledge of the broad projects of the globe; but in order to gossip via social media in order to spread rumour and misinformation, in order to play games and things like that."

Noting that the climate change resolution had engaged the attention of persons across the world for a long time, the Education Minister told the youth:

"You are in a position to help fashion the debate here in Barbados and it can be spread across the world because of the instantaneous nature of technology to influence your peers in Australia, Mauritius, Brazil, United States of America, wherever young people are…"

Stressing that his own generation was "passing," Mr. Jones said: "This is an opportunity for you to be involved in multiple fora, not only in this mock or simulated United Nations exercise, but it will also give you that encouragement, that capacity ??to be involved in so many other things as young people across Barbados." And, he made the point that every single student in secondary and tertiary level institutions should be involved in at least one organisation in his/her school, whether it be Girl Guides, the Cadets, the Boy Scouts, Interact and Rotoract and Key Club, because it would make a difference in their life and such associations could help students to develop and become well-rounded adults.

Meanwhile, Operations Manager, UNDP Barbados and the OECS, Heny Mangal explained to students that?? the UN system supported Barbados and the OECS through partnerships with agencies such as the Rotary Clubs to address?? issues including climate change that were important "for the sustainability and survival of our Caribbean civilisation". While stating that the UN looked forward to continued improvements in human progress and development in the Caribbean, he said it welcomed and strongly encouraged the voice of young people in shaping a secure future that strikes a balance between the environment and continued human advancement.

"These issues cannot be left only to diplomats, government officials, technocrats and scientists. They require the attention of the entire society including students and concerned citizens, as ultimately, we will have to make fundamental choices about the type of life we want to live in the present and that which we want to leave to future generations," Mr. Mangal emphasised.

The simulated United Nations debate was geared towards enlightening participants, on the principles of effective communication, diplomacy, parliamentary procedure and decorum. It centred around the Climate Change Resolution debated at the UN General Assembly in September last year.

joy-ann.gill@barbados.gov.bb

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