A difficult road ahead for our youth

With minor changes to this article published about ten years ago, the writer thinks that the sentiments expressed then are even more relevant in today’s increasingly tempestuous world and its influence on contemporary Grenadian society.  The writer begs the indulgence of the editor.

By all accounts Grenada has a youth population explosion, and a troubling pattern of children having children has emerged. What is particularly disturbing is that having multiple sexual partners seem to be in vogue. In certain social circles young women openly discuss affairs with multiple sex mates, conversations hitherto indulged in mostly by boastful “wishful thinking” young men boosting their fragile egos and maintaining the “macho image” of a male dominated society.

Women’s lib and the sexual revolution came to Grenadian teens and young adults in a flash flood dragging AIDS and the drug culture along with it; few took notice – probably because we are culturally different and were not, as a people, predisposed to the drug cult. However, today illicit drugs are found with relative ease and young people from both sexes make media headlines sensationalising the exploding use and distribution of controlled substances.

Many new mothers are not sure who fathered their children – single parents may be spreading AIDS to their babies. Irresponsible young men, probably with some justification, challenge pregnant mothers to identify their “sperm donors”. DNA testing is not an option – much too expensive, particularly in the present worldwide economic downturn, it is essentially unavailable to low income Grenadians.

Among young men who doubt paternity, the likelihood of walking away is almost certain, raising concerns about the traditional family unit. And when fathers come forward admitting paternity, many are either unemployed or underemployed still living at home and financially unable to support children.

Teen mothers have the unexpected and untimely responsibility of caring for babies as single parents never having the joy of just fun loving children. Fortunately, in many instances grandfathers and grandmothers from the “family unit generation” step forward to help, but with the decline of the family unit the prospect of single parent children raised by grandparents in the future is grim.

Although recent reform is ongoing, the crisis in education and job creation is far from over. Children are graduating as functional illiterates; reading comprehension although improving is not impressive. Students do well in standardised exams on the secondary level, but have difficulty at university because of poor reading comprehension.

The teaching fraternity seems to have shifted its focus from educating the “whole child” – pass exams the priority.

Each graduating class is having increasing difficulty to land jobs. Government reports of new job opportunities are to be treated with circumspection. Hundreds of young adults are trained at TAMCC every year with promises of good paying jobs and a better standard of living. Already there are signs that all is not well, with frustration building, violent crime is on the rise,

Only the dreams of a very small number will ever approach coming true. The vast majority, unemployed and disillusioned, will be cast out onto the streets. One shudders to think: will they retain their innocence, or will the survival instinct and the lure of materialism awaken a darker side? Only time will tell.

Obedience and respect are declining; it should not be surprising that violent behaviour is rising. These behaviours do not just develop in a vacuum; children adopt the behaviours and attitudes of adults.

When persons in positions of leadership and influence show arrogance and intolerance, when cunning and deception pervade the foundations of our value system, when graft and corruption go unnoticed, when our models of success are people who amass huge amounts of material wealth overnight, with no traceable source of income, what examples do we expect our youth to follow?

Glorifying the use of alcoholic beverages in Grenada appears to be a matter of national pride. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence published by the American Medical Association (AMA) and other renown and distinguished international research organisations that alcohol is an addictive and devastating drug, young people are permitted and frequently encouraged, through media and other advertising, to consume alcohol at will.

Alcoholism poses a serious threat to the health and welfare of the youth; it strains personal relationships, it affects performance on the job and at school, it disrupts the family unit, it puts the unborn at risk and takes bread and milk from the mouths of babies. Young people spend a significant amount of their disposable income to drink their lives away – moderation is seldom a consideration.  In fete talk, “is who could drink more than who”.

Each weekend a cacophony of punctuating bass reverberates in the ears of sleepless residents while hoards of young people crowd dimly lit halls with blaring music and freely flowing alcohol. Others assemble outside patronising sidewalk “smoke pits” and proudly displaying bottles of beer, “the essence of adulthood” – they have arrived.

We want our youth to follow a code of ethics and to be sensitive and caring, we want them to become productive citizens and to strive for heights that most of us could never reach. But do we remember that they are children, impressionable children, mere mortals whose character we molded and who now emulate us?  As my grandmother succinctly put it, “tanya doh make dasheen”.

Advances in technology quadruple the knowledge base with numerous new scientific discoveries, antiquating current knowledge, in about every five years. Even without the contamination from our pseudo lifestyles and values, the road ahead is difficult for our youth.

It is ludicrous to perpetuate a society that negatively impacts the youth then expect them to be the Mother Teresa’s of the world.  I do not believe in those kinds of miracles, neither did Mother Teresa.

Kit Stonewalling

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