Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo????

Government is planning to introduce the much-anticipated National Youth Service (NYS) by the 2010 academic year.

This disclosure has come from Minister of Youth, Family and Sports, Dr. Esther Byer Suckoo, who said: "It is proposed that the groundwork can be completed and that the National Youth Service can be introduced in phases by the 2010/11 school year."

She made the comments yesterday, while addressing an awards ceremony at the Prince Cave Hall, District "A" Police Station, for the second International Cadet Challenge Camp, which was held recently in Barbados, over a nine-day period.

Speaking to the media after the event, Dr. Byer Suckoo said the NYS had been a proposal on paper for sometime and government had committed to reviewing the suggestion and tweaking it where necessary, so it could be implemented.

"That has taken a while. We have looked at the proposal, in fact, we are still looking at the proposal. But, we are mindful that we need to do that within the given framework, given the budgetary constraints, so that right now we are looking at phasing in the National Youth Service.

"We are doing an organisational audit at the Division of Youth Affairs to also determine how we can get the best out of the Ministry of Youth. … So, what we have done with the audit and in reviewing the youth service is to try to get more out of what we are doing, so that our programmes are not just short term, …but can make a difference in the lives and thinking of our young people and have that sustained for many years to come," she explained.

The Minister noted that the NYS would probably be for secondary school children because the Barbados Youth Service "does not really catch" the children when the intervention was most needed.

Dr. Byer Suckoo also said the National Youth Service would allow more children to be involved in different degrees of service. She suggested that adults who spent their childhood serving their communities, continued along similar paths, and also inculcated that community spirit in their children.

She lamented: "Families now don’t teach children enough about the community. The church used to be about that and it still is, but church is not an integral part of the lives of children as it used to be. Years ago, children had to go to church, so what they did not learn at school or at home, they would learn there. Now, sadly, they are many children who have never been to church. So, it falls on Government to take up the slack and work with those organisations that are already doing a good job [and] to be able to support them in their efforts as well."

A residential phase to the National Youth Service is also proposed, but it will require Government to set up facilities and hire support staff.

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