Issues Panelists discuss importance and continuity of youth Development Programs; concerns raised about marijuana smoking and sexual predators

June 05, 2023 in National

A discussion ensued about the importance and continuity of social development programs in the Federation during the Friday, June 02, 2023, edition of Issues.

The discussion was sparked following a point made by a caller to the ‘Issues’ programme, who suggested that the Government invest yearly grants into youth development programs such as Boys Brigade and Boy Scouts etc., geared towards tackling delinquencies among the youth. The caller expressed the need for a meeting location in each area or community where teenagers can engage in specific classes or sessions and also emphasised that the activities of the youth development programs be changed in order to grab the attention of today’s youth.

Social Activist Duncan ‘Big Lice’ Wattley expounded upon the caller’s suggestion, discussing the change in time and the need for a more modern approach to empower the youth and ensure their holistic development.

“What we ought to do- because culture is changing, we have to change some of the stuff that we do; and so, we have to now get something that is very similar to Boys Brigade- but what we have to do now is put a tablet in their hand or computer because that’s what they want to do, and get them involved in something that is going to help them to become productive and come together. I am not saying bring back the Boy Scouts, but put the Boy Scouts on some steroids and bring it where they can come and sit down, and what we have to do is find out what piques their interest or the direction that you want them to go and then you involve that in a group setting, and then you get people” said Wattley.

He added, “I like the Robot thing, but everybody won’t be so bright to be in the robot thing, but you have to find ways. You have to be creative to find ways to get the attention of these youngsters so that they can know how to communicate, [and] how to care for each other. It’s what you’re doing, you know. You’re teaching them how to communicate, how to get to each other, how to be a brother’s keeper and to love one another and be all the values.”

Former Parliamentarian Sam Condor recalled an interview with the Public Relations Officer of the St. Kitts-Nevis Robotics Association, Patrina Perreira, who asserted that people have to change their way of thinking and also took a look back in time when important groups in society played a part in the upbringing of children.

“I don’t know if you heard the interview with the Public Relations Officer for the Robotics Society, and that is what she was saying; we have to come to a situation now where we have to get people thinking outside the box… All of our students are not going to gravitate to robotics but get people from all levels thinking differently. That is what these community groups are about. They are replacing the Boys Brigade, the Scouts and the Guides, but it is [about] socialisation. You have to have agents of socialisation. It used to be, in our days, the school, the home and the church.”

However, while conversing about agents of socialisation, Wattley shared his view that issues still need to be addressed; thus highlighting the matter of marijuana smoking and the direction that varying fractions of society have taken as it relates to marijuana.

“While we are saying these things, we still have some issues within our society that need to be addressed, and sometimes I find that we’re afraid to touch them because we’re afraid to offend or we’re afraid to say someone won’t like me! The marijuana smoking is a big issue. I have no problem with marijuana, but my thing is that smoking, one in and one out, can’t be correct. Get what I am saying; I don’t mind if people smoke. But personally, and I stand to be corrected- but smoking itself, I can’t see a man [smoking] one in, one out, one in, one out. That must affect your health. So, “What are we going to do?” because I could tell you, the entire society is gravitating towards the smoking of marijuana, you know, whether we want to believe it or not, and we’re in Parliament trying to pass laws to say, “plant marijuana” and we’re saying “export it.” Marijuana is a good thing, but what I think we need is education on the marijuana. So, we need to get the experts [like] Sankova who’s a part of it, they know; and talk to the [children], let them know that there is a right way and a wrong way.”

Meanwhile, the Host of “Issues”, Jamiella McPhail, also raised a concern that sexual predators may be associated with some of the social development programs. She expressed that not only should girls be protected, but boys as well.

“Now, in speaking about these grassroots programmes, we have to be careful because we have seen in the past that predators like to be a part of some of these programmes, and when we are encouraging our parents to send children to these organisations, we have to ensure that our children are safe. We have to ensure that if something happens, the penalties are such that people will not want to do it again. We have to make sure that our judicial system is working. Not a child gets raped when they’re in second form, and the child is in college now, and the case ‘ain’t called yet. These are all situations that we have to fix, and we have to look at.”

McPhail added, “A lot of times, we look at the girls, and we say, “we have daughters, I’m not sending my daughter anywhere, but we have to be careful with our boys too.”

The discourse on youth development programs and their role in society followed a recent spat of violence amongst the youth population and the disclosure from the Probation Unit that there has been an increase in House Breaking and Larceny being committed by juveniles over the past two months.