Serving your country will be taken to a whole new level for thousands of local youth.
Under a new National Youth Service, to be implemented by Government as part of the island’s new National Youth Policy, all Barbadians between the ages of 15 and 29 will be mandated to give hundreds of hours of civic national service spread over two years.
Government is hoping to gain “considerable” financial savings by deploying these youth “to youth development programmes such as the Holiday Camps, youth and community groups and sports clubs”.
A new Youth Development Board is also to be established as a statutory body to manage all activities now undertaken by the Youth Affairs Division.
These and other aspects of the National Youth Policy could be discussed in the House of Assembly as early as Tuesday, talks expected to be led by Minister of Youth Stephen Lashley.
The new National Youth Service, which has been mooted for the past several years, is to replace the Barbados Youth Service, and the major difference between the two will be that while youth have a choice in the existing system, the new one will be mandatory.
Barbadians in the specified age group who travel overseas to study will be able to “defer” their more than 200 hours of service until they return home.
Other specifics of the youth service initiative included: * The service will be known as civic/national service to distinguish it from the community service meted out by the criminal justice system. * Young people will have a choice of the kind of service they wish to give to their community or to society in general. * They will be adequately prepared for this service to ensure that ‘experiential learning’ takes place, involving exposure to disciplines and careers in which they have an interest and a level of competence and wish to sharpen their skills through practical experience. * All organisations offering opportunities for civic/national service will be carefully vetted and certified to ensure that experiential learning takes place and abuse prevented. * These organisations will include the uniformed services, youth groups and other civil society organisations.
It was also pointed out that contracts would be “drawn up and signed by both parties beforehand” and that “organisations addressing current and future youth issues will be given priority for the placement of young volunteers”.
“The capacity of youth, community and service organisations will be enhanced with resources from the Ministry of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth,” the policy document stated.
A major role was also identified for the new Youth Development Board, which will be responsible for the selection of participants, as well as the management and monitoring of young volunteers.
This new statutory board “will be made up of representatives of stakeholder bodies such as the Ministry of Family, Culture, Sports and Youth, parents, educators, employers, youth and community organisations”.
Under the National Youth Policy it will also be “given more autonomy and flexibility to respond expeditiously to the rapidly changing circumstances under which young people currently come of age in Barbados”.
The board’s mandate also included “to develop and demonstrate the culture of enterprise which this Ministry wishes to cultivate among young Barbadians”.
The existing Barbados Youth Service has traditionally catered to needs of youth at risk, who were accepted into a one year development programme including a six month residential component. (SC)