EDITORIAL: Reach out to youth in 2020

IT seems that many of our youth really do not know their worth, because they have not been made aware of it. Some adults in Barbados have not adequately delivered the message to youth in their care, that they do have something valuable in terms of their talents and gifts that they can contribute to this nation of Barbados, to make it a better place. Thus, some of our youth are trying to fit in with the crowd and sadly, we are reaping the negative consequences from those who desire to be followers rather than leaders.

It is a well-known fact that many youth come from broken and dysfunctional homes and we know full well that the family environment does have a tremendous impact on children and how they thrive in their critical years. When the home fails, it is often left to our schools to pick up the slack. Though not all teachers are trained to be counsellors, it must be said that teachers may need additional training, so that they can pick up on critical signals that indicate that a child is troubled, so that that child can get help as early as possible. Sometimes, all it takes is for an adult to simply show interest in a child, for that child to make a turnaround. On the other hand, some problems cannot be solved that easily and stronger intervention strategies are needed to get troubled students back on track. Whatever the case, we can be certain that we will have more trouble on our hands if we do not reach out to our youth and meet the needs of those who are likely to fall through the cracks.

Perhaps we can make use of a number of the counselling agencies around, since we seem not to have an adequate supply of school psychologists on hand and guidance counsellors already have their hands full. Perhaps children who seem to be acting out should be placed into compulsory counselling sessions, where they will be able to explore the areas troubling them and adopt behaviour modification strategies that will aid them in the future. Those who successfully navigate such a programme could get some recognition, thereby turning a negative situation into a positive one.

It would also be nice to see a peer mentorship programme established for students at the secondary level, as well. The peer mentoring relationship would indeed foster a network of support for needy students in our secondary schools. Trustworthy mentors would be matched with selected mentees, who will serve as peer support personnel for these students, working to ensure their grades improve and that they develop academic and social skills. Mentors could also identify trouble spots for mentees, whether these include issues such as peer pressure, for example pressure to use drugs or have sex; issues with attendance and behaviour; and typical family problems. Mentoring programmes for youth will be especially useful for students who are suffering from a lack of social support.

We could go on and on about the interventions needed in the home and at the level of the school. But what is clear is that we need more Barbadian adults to show a greater interest in our youth, especially those prone to go down a slippery path, so we can pull more of our youth away from trouble and even away from a life of crime. Yes, we have a number of our youth doing positive things and making their mark on society. However, there are others who need our intervention.

Barbados Advocate

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