|CARICOM Youth Ambassador and Director of the Bridging the Gap Programme, Christa Soleyn. (photo courtesy of Ashlee Cox??of the Barbados Advocate)??|
Some children, many of primary school age, have a xenophobic attitude towards people who are not from Barbados, and it is critical that children are given fun, factual and positive information on CARICOM so that they can form their own opinions on the regional body.
This is the opinion of CARICOM Youth Ambassador and Director of the Bridging the Gap Programme, Christa Soleyn, who has declared that too many of this country’s children hear the myths about CARICOM and they need to be exposed to the facts.
She was speaking to the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) at the CARICOM Quiz and CARICOM Cool Kidz prize giving ceremony for the Bridging the Gap Programme at the Alexandra School, Speighstown, St. Peter.
Started by the Principal of that school, Jeff Broomes, Ms. Soleyn explained that the programme it was an initiative designed to help incoming first formers with the transition to secondary school.?? Moreover, it includes a component that teaches the children the facts about CARICOM.
Pointing out that some children were picking up negative connotations about CARICOM, Ms. Soleyn called for sensitisation to start in primary schools.??
"Generally some children and adults have myths about CARICOM, so I believe that if we start teaching our children the truth from very early, we will empower them to have informed opinions," she said.
Noting that the CARICOM sessions in the Bridging the Gap Programme helped the children to remove the stigma attached to the regional group, she added: "…It does not need to be anything heavy but simple knowledge like Barbados is a part of CARICOM… [and] teaching children what the member states are…"
Youth Ambassador Soleyn stressed, however, that the key to the sensitisation process would be to make it fun and relatable.??
"From the time we started making it fun and didn’t force them to learn something, the students were very engaged.?? We spoke about food that they liked, and about people, athletes and artists from CARICOM and which member state they were from…," she explained, adding that the children were also interested in learning more about the regional countries.??
Ms. Soleyn reasoned: "Children soak up what they see and hear… and a lot of children hear myths about CARICOM before they even hear the truth, and that worries me. When we started [our CARICOM sessions] you would hear the comment, ???that is for foreigners to come to Barbados and take up all the jobs…’"??
Noting that many Barbadians have relatives from other islands, she remarked that some of these persons [Barbadians] also had misinformed views on CARICOM.?? Furthermore, she observed generally that "the knowledge of being, knowing somebody, or having relatives from a different island is not a bad thing", but she pointed out that most persons needed to be comfortable with sharing this information.