Prime Minister Freundel Stuart says there is a need for discipline in society and a greater sense of community.
He expressed this concern earlier today while making his contribution to the debate on the National Youth Policy in the House of Assembly.
The Prime Minister said: “Citizenship is a very heavy responsibility, it does not confer rights only, it confers responsibilities. Our young people have been taking full advantage of all of the rights citizenship confers and assuming many of the responsibilities that citizenship confers.
“That fact notwithstanding, the National Youth Policy contemplates an intensification of that assumption of responsibility by pointing to the need for a volunteer youth service as an additional obligation of our young people.”
He described it as a very emotive issue, adding that over time people had tried to make a political issue of it. He noted though that in most countries across the world now, young people were required to do some kind of voluntary service as part of their way of saying thank you to their societies for the sacrifices made on their behalf and in their interest.
Referring to the document, Stuart said the National Youth Service would encourage every young person between the age 15 and 29 in Barbados to voluntarily give a minimum of 200 hours of service spread over two years.
He also noted that young people studying abroad would also be encouraged to give voluntary service upon their return.
Stuart asked: “What can be wrong with that? If the taxpayers of this country have assumed the responsibility of educating our young people from primary school through to university, what can be wrong with asking young people to give 200 hours of voluntary service back to the society?
“This is not an issue. We believe firmly as a Government that there is need for discipline in the society, there is need for a sense of community. The youth policy makes reference to the fact that there is a rampant individualism taking root in the society and if we are to pull it back and to give people a sense of belonging to one another and owing a duty to one another, this is one way of so doing.”
He recalled that this issue was being discussed in Barbados by both political parties as far back as the 1970s. The Prime Minister noted that the issue of core values was also addressed in National Youth Policy.
“This issue has been engaging the national attention for some time now, because there is an uneasy sense that somehow there has been a weakening of the core values, not only in Barbados, but across this region and the Western world. People believe that there is a lot of values confusion which has to be reduced to some kind of order and to get our societies back on track.
“Whenever you are discussing values, you have to come to grips with the fact that you are really not talking values unless you are talking about getting people to understand that certain things are right and other things are wrong. That certain things are good and that other things are bad. That certain things are fair, that other things are unfair. That certain things are just, that other things are unjust. That is at the core of any value system,” the Prime Minister argued. (NC)