The productivity of the Imani Trainees came into sharp focus once again during the recent debate in the Senate on the 2017 budget.
During his contribution, Private Sector Representative, Senator Christopher DeAllie said the business community has always given support to any programme that brings some sort of hope and relief to people, especially the young population to try and steer them away from criminal activities.
“If we have places where they (the youth) can go and channel their energy in a different way and they could build their skills, and give them some sort of hope and get a little money that will help,” he said.
However, Sen. DeAllie told the sitting of the Upper House that a leading company recently informed him that it made a request to get two hundred students from the Imani programme to offer them training, but was only provided with six.
He said he learnt from the company that the students felt that the rigours surrounding the discipline of the job in terms of the time of getting to work and the assignment was too strong because it was easier to stay home and get $800.00 and $1,000 from government and not go to work.
He also reported that a young lady who had received a scholarship to attend St. George’s University (SGU) reportedly refused to come off the Imani Programme as she was receiving her $1,000.
At present, there are 46 Imani Trainees attending SGU.
Sen. DeAllie observed that this state of affairs within the Imani was happening at a time when unemployment among the youth was averaging close to 50 percent.
He felt that the Administrators do not seem to know some of the loopholes that exist within the Imani Programme, or they either turn a blind eye to it “because we believe it’s going to give us the votes.”
The Keith Mitchell-led New National Party (NNP) government has often been accused of trying to use the Imani programme as a vote-catching exercise among the nation’s youth.
The Imani budget this year is $27M, and there are currently three thousand people registered in the programme.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Religious Affairs, Sen. Pamela Moses disclosed that since the NNP returned to power in 2013, just over three thousand, five hundred Trainees were taken into the Imani Programme, and over 500 would have graduated.
Sen. Moses advocated the need to continue to invest in the young people whom she regarded as the future of the country, adding that the investment is for their future so that there will be persons who are capable of fitting into society.
However, the Female Government Senator admitted that there are many challenges faced in the functioning of the programme.
According to her, in some cases the professionalism and good work ethics are missing as some of the Trainees prefer to attend to their child and engage in other personal activities, and as a result they have no time to go on the job site.
She told the Senate some of the Trainees do not want to work at nights, and on different shifts and days.
“They like (to work) Monday to Friday, 8:00 to 4:00… some even prefer to work on the road,” she said.
Sen. Moses announced that for 2017, the mentorship programme will be increased to assist the young people in coping with the workplace to become better Trainees.
The Parliamentary Secretary believes the Imani Programme is the vehicle which can be used to keep the young people away from criminal activities.
“If we do not maintain our three thousand persons out there, if we do not continue to invest all that money in them, most likely our crime rate would change,” she told the Senate.
“The whole essence of the Imani Programme is to provide these young people with the fishing rod that they need to go out there and catch fish every single day,” she said.
However, Labour Senator, Raymond Roberts suggested that the Imani Programme be changed to being a “National Service.”
Sen. Roberts said National Service has a different connotation allowing those participants to think about Grenada, stating that much more can be achieved from the youngsters.
He said there cannot be people easily receiving $800 or $1,000 a month from government and not looking to tomorrow.
He recommended that government engage in a mass replanting of nutmeg and cocoa trees and that those who are involved in the Imani Programme be a part of the process.
Sen. Roberts noted that after 12 years since Hurricane Ivan destroyed the country’s agriculture he is now hearing that Grenada is just 30 percent of pre-Ivan cultivation of Nutmeg and Cocoa.
He said it appears that some of the Imani Trainees are happy being stationed in an office environment looking nice and, perhaps doing things for Ministers and Permanent Secretaries.
About a month ago, Youth Minister Roland Bhola lamented the lackadaisical manner in which the Imani trainees arrived at the venue at the National Stadium at Queen’s Park for their graduation ceremony and called for a relook of the programme.