??An emotional Naomi Clarke of the Alexandra School, winner of the BGIS/UNICEF Essay Competitionin the Form 1 – 3 category, reads her entry with the encouragement of her father Ronnie Clarke.
(C. Pitt/BGIS)

Families across Barbados have been advised to become aware of issues confronting young people that can at times render them silent.

This plea came recently from Minister of Education and Human Resource Development, Ronald Jones, as he addressed the awards ceremony of the Poster and Essay competitions of the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), at United Nations???? House, Marine Gardens, Christ Church.

As he lauded the creativity expressed in posters displayed around the room, Minister Jones told parents that the actions of young people, at times, represented "their voice". He stressed:?? "Sometimes we need to listen a little more to the voices of our young people and to analyse the actions of our young people…the actions might be saying things that we need to interpret and [for which] we need to come up with solutions so that our young people don’t stray, fall off at the edge or are not, in silent suffering regardless of what officialdom does…"

Mr. Jones maintained; "sometimes when the story is eventually told, not in the early stages of the child’s life or in the adolescence of the child’s life but maybe when that individual reaches adulthood, then the horror of that life is then revealed too late in many instances."

Adults were also urged to understand the importance of encouraging young people "who suffer neglect, who suffer mis-use and abuse to find a voice and to use that voice so they can penetrate the silence which surrounds us".?? As the Minister highlighted that his own experience in education had brought full awareness to "such

horror afflicting the youth", he added: "They aren’t things that you would go to the public and blare out because sensationalism is not what I am interested in."

He added: "Therefore, in our own space, in our own country, in Barbados, we have to ensure that our young people, our children in our homes in Barbados, children in our schools, communities, our countries, as a whole, do not suffer or continue to suffer…the kind of abuse and neglect that has become prevalent in other parts of the world."

Citing some examples, he pointed out: "We know that there is some [abuse] in Barbados… these things bother me deeply. There are so many stories, right here in the heartland of our country."??

Mr. Jones recalled that such did not exist "in the history and evolution of Barbados when poverty reigned supreme", and he outlined why it was important for Bajans to revisit these times and not "shut their eyes" to them.?? He said: "Today, when we Barbadians would have done so much to transform the social and economic status of the country, we are encountering more vicious levels of neglect than hitherto, and something is wrong with that.

"With economic liberation, economic viability [and] with certain social structures properly implanted in the country, our young people should not be suffering in silence.??

As adults we have a responsibility, to make a change!"

The historian, author and trade unionist further argued that a majority of today’s young people who manifest some highly negative behaviours did so as a result of the abuse and silence, which they then wrapped around themselves. "[It is] because some of them don’t have the confidence to speak to adults because it is adults, by and large, who place the abuse on them and, therefore, they (children) develop this fear and this rejection of adults," he proffered.

The point was made to parents that children sometimes preferred to talk with peers whom they vowed to silence in a code which adults could not break "even when we bring the stick and the whip, other forms of abuse on the flesh and the mind of young people".??

Explaining this further, Minister Jones noted: "Educators way back then did not truly recognise some of the cognitive, emotional and other deficits which those young people had.?? Today, this is a little more enlightened period and, therefore, we recognise many of the learning deficits of children and recognise no matter how badly you inflict corporal punishment, that will not make a difference to their learning; because if in fact learning took place as a result of corporal punishment, then everyone would learn.

It was also told to parents that the issue of learning related to deficits included cognitive, emotional and psychological deficits. "We have to understand that there are those deficits and seek to make a change to the learning behaviours of some of our children, particularly those who are so affected," urged the Education Minister,

maintaining that children knew what their rights should be and adults should bear this in mind.

The BGIS/UNICEF Poster and Essay competitions which were held under the theme What do Child Rights Mean to Me received 165 posters and 45 essays, from 200 primary and secondary school students respectively.??

Shaliyah Wood of Wesley Hall Juniors was adjudged winner of the best poster in Class 1-2 category, while Chaquon Griffith of Charles F. Broome Memorial Primary won in the Class 3-4 group. In the essay competition, which targeted the secondary schools, Naomi Clarke of the Alexandra School won in the Form 1-3 category, while Aaliyah Alleyne-Smith of Harrison College won in the Form 4-5 category.


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