Barbados’ National Youth Policy is at an advanced stage and it should be completed soon.

This disclosure came from Minister of Youth, Stephen Lashley, as he addressed today’s launch of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) State of the World’s Children’s Report at UN House.

Mr. Lashley told the group of officials, school children and young people: "Already a draft of that policy has been completed and I’m sure that following further consultations, we will be able to complete the National Youth Policy within the next few weeks. It will then be taken to Cabinet for approval prior to being laid in the Parliament of Barbados."

He also disclosed that his Ministry was in the process of developing a mentorship programme aimed at taking young people to the level beyond training. "We envisage that those persons currently gaining skills through programmes offered through the Division of Youth will now have the opportunity to work alongside established employers and hone their skills," the Youth Minister stated.

??Minister Lashley commended UNICEF on the "Adolescence – An Age of Opportunity" Report, stating it was relevant and timely. Noting the world’s children encountered many challenges, he outlined some of them as making life-determining decisions about values, beliefs, identity, careers, lifestyles, religion and relationships with others.

Describing adolescence as a time of transition involving dramatic physical, emotional and social changes, he observed that most teenagers navigated this time without undue stress, but others engaged in at-risk behaviours that had negative psychological, social and health consequences for themselves and others.

Mr. Lashley stated: "Investing in adolescents can also accelerate the fight against poverty, inequality and gender discrimination.?? The state of poverty that exists within poverty stricken adolescents is generally carried on in a cycle with those same adolescents giving birth to impoverished children."

Deputy Representative of UNICEF’s Eastern Caribbean Office, Violet Speek-Warnery, commended the Barbados Government for its efforts towards achieving universal early childhood education. "While we need to keep expanding and improving the quality of these services, we also need to ensure support, with greater emphasis on policies and programmes for children of adolescent age," she said.

Mrs. Speek-Warnery proffered the view that adolescents should be exposed to initiatives such as the National Youth Forum, since it would give them an opportunity to help shape the national agenda. "This is even more critical against the backdrop of a recent UNICEF study which found that while 79 per cent of adolescents in Barbados are aware of avenues for participation in their schools, only 35 per cent of them actually do," she added.????

The official noted that some of the challenges they faced included high levels of youth unemployment, crime and violence. "In the Eastern Caribbean, for example, there are increasing reports making the headlines, of adolescents, especially boys, being involved in gangs, drugs and criminal activities in the Eastern Caribbean. This is linked to the worrying trend of adolescent boys’ lack of connectiveness to school.

"In general, more girls (84 per cent) than boys (77 per cent) enrol in secondary schools. Furthermore, twice as many girls as boys actually write the Caribbean Secondary School Certificate Examinations (CXC) in the Eastern Caribbean countries. The low passing rate in CXC, the gender disparity, inequity and the violence among the youth, highlight more than ever the need for greater investment and focus on adolescents, especially in the education sector," she maintained.??????????

Ms. Speek-Warnery expressed the view that adolescents would need to be equipped with the skills and knowledge to contend with the challenges and suggested they should be exposed to developmental learning, such as Health and Family Life Education.

There are 1.2 billion adolescents between these ages of 10 and 19 in the world, with over 300,000 in the Eastern Caribbean sub region, and 38,000 in Barbados.??

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