Ministers Henry, Allicock defend Government’s 2017 youth investments – in face of attacks from Opposition MPs
GINA, GUYANA, Thursday, December 08, 2016
Minister within the Ministry of Education, Nicolette Henry, with responsibility for Culture, Youth and Sport told the National Assembly, today, that the Government is building a cadre of future youth leaders, and has made provision for the allocation of resources to continue leadership training.
Her response followed criticisms from Opposition Members of Parliament (MPs) that the Coalition Government is reneging on their election promises to youths.
Minister Henry told the House that the Government inherited a youth population that did not have the benefit of exposure to leadership training. She said that Government, recognising the need to fill this gap, in its first year initiated a training programme from which more than 400 young people benefitted from leadership skills.
The Minister explained that youth leaders are now being given opportunities to “develop their skills, organise themselves, and become more involved in youth development at the community and other levels.”
Further, towards empowering youth and ensuring each play a role in the future development of the nation, the Minister explained that a pilot Literacy and Numeracy/Work Ready Programme commenced in 2016. She said that since the start of this training programme, 33 young people from 13 communities have successfully completed training as instructors. Next year these instructors will begin the process of teaching young people in their communities.
Additionally towards supporting the many young people that have not been able to acquire passes in five subjects at CXC, including Mathematics and English, the government began a pilot Night School Project in three communities (namely: Sophia, North Riumveldt and Soesdyke. Minister Henry explained that the night school initiative is expected to extend to other communities such as Port Kaituma in 2017.
“This is a clear example of how this government is tailoring and modifying programmes to meet the needs of specific demographics,” the Minister said.
She also noted that the 2017 budget will create employment for a number of young people and that with this in mind, last year; Government began training young people in Financial Literacy and Small Business Management. Minister Henry said that this training will continue in 2017, to supplement the cohort of 51 persons trained in 2016 in agro-processing.
The sum of $60M was also invested in the Madewini and the Kuru Kuru Training Centres, and in 2017, government will continue its investment with two additional skills training centres at Coldingen and Den Amstel.
Opposition MP, Pauline Sukhai, who opened the debates, this morning, had called out the Government for “deceiving the youths” and reneging on the election promises to them.
Sukhai said that after misleading the youths into believing that they were the focal point in the election campaign, and that a good life filled with opportunities awaited them, with the coalition winning the elections, “the disappointment that followed, placed the youths out in the cold.”
Sukhai noted that there are no seats for youths in the Cabinet, a single seat in the Parliament and lesser youths finding space in important positions, at various level of the administration.
In addition, she claimed that technical and competent young professionals were dismissed for “no reason at all from a number of sectoral ministries, and more than 1900 Amerindians were dismissed from the Youth Entrepreneurial and Apprenticeship Programme (YEAP programme). Sukhai said that government’s “boastful talk of putting youths first, continue to be lip service,” as highlighted by the 2017 budget which in her opinion, has “no new initiatives for youth development” and as well lacks adequate allocation to address the challenges faced by youths.
Similar sentiments were expressed by her colleague MP, NeedKumar, who in his address, also this morning, said that the Coalition Government showed its care for the youth, by inappropriately reducing the importance of the former Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport into a third-tier department, within another Ministry, with less significance and non-beneficial programmes for youth and sport development.
Kumar who also questioned the adequacy of the budgetary allocation for youth and youth capacity development, also called the Government out for “taking away bread and butter from the 1972 Amerindian youths by closing the YEAP programme. He also accused the government of gradually phasing out the YEST and the President’s Youth Award; Republic of Guyana, (PYARG) Programme.
Minister Henry however, pointed out that this is not a “cut and dry situation.” She said that a comprehensive review of all training entities that fall within the department of culture, youth and sport, was done to reorganise the various facilities to reach expected outcomes, eliminate duplication, inefficiencies and of course to increase institutional capacity.
“As we speak, the government is relooking the Youth Choice Initiative structures that were done under the PPP government. The intention is to transform them, where salvageable into learning centres and youth friendly spaces which young people can access and utilise,” the Minister said.
She explained that to further government’s vision, the plan is to continue to strengthen all of the youth programmes by developing and modifying them to meet the changing needs and demands of the young.
In 2017, the department will move to provide life transformational experiences for young people that will allow for life and vocational skills development.
“All our vocational skills training programmes will be upgraded to meet Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) level 1 requirements,” the
Minister said. Instructors were already trained in this regard, and the labs and equipment are currently being upgraded.
Meanwhile, Minister of Indigenous Peoples’ Affairs, Sydney Allicock who also spoke this morning called out two Opposition MPs for continuing to repeat the falsity about the YEAP programme. He explained that the Opposition whilst in Government was set to end the programme, in March of 2015. He said that when the then Government realised that they had lost the election; they cancelled a cheque that was to be paid to the youths leaving them, “high and dry.” Further, he pointed out that the programme was ineffective as it trained the youths to be young PPPC politicians, and not as youth developers for their communities.
Minister Allicock said that under the Coalition Government, the hinterland youths are “guaranteed opportunities to adequately prepare themselves for the world of opportunities which are coming their way. Our President speaks of an educated nation. These planned interventions take into account the training needs of our young people and the human resources requirements of our investors, as well as the ambitions of our young potential entrepreneurs themselves,” he said.
For 2017, the hinterland communities will benefit from some of the $2.5 billion allocated for Technical Vocational Education and Training. Minister Allicock said that this is part of an integrated network of training interventions targeting hinterland youths and will complement the other programmes such as: YEST, Sustainable Livelihood and Entrepreneurial Development (SLED), Caribbean Vocational Qualification (CVQ) platform and the Hinterland Employment and Youth Services (HEYS).
Minister Allicock also pointed out that the practical instruction centres (PICs) in Mabaruma, Bartica, Lethem and Mahdia will be rehabilitated and the Bina Hill Institute of Learning will receive support to the tune of $111M. The hinterland school children will benefit from the $90M school uniform support programme while the Hinterland Scholarship Programme is set for expansion in 2017.
By: Macalia Santos