Statement By Minister For Education And Culture Honourable
Myron Walwyn At The Third Sitting Of The Fourth Session Of The Second House Of Assembly Of The Virgin Islands
VI National Youth Policy And Framework
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Madame Speaker, it is with a sense of great pride that I make a statement on the Virgin Islands National Youth Policy 2014-2019, which will be laid in this Honourable House today. Madame Speaker, young people are the fastest growing demographic in the world with an estimated 3 billion youth population worldwide by this year, 2015. This unprecedented youth bulge provides an opportunity for new innovations, energies and a fresh appetite to use creativity as a means to solve some of our most challenging issues.
As you are aware, economic and social pressures are impacting our young people. New opportunities must be created and implemented inorder to address needs related to unemployment, political inclusion, entrepreneurship, education and health if we are to successfully prepare our young people to meet the development needs of the territory.
Madame Speaker, the journey to the realisation of a Youth Policy has been a lengthy one. As far back as 1996 a Draft National Youth Policy for the Virgin Islands was prepared, but it was never finalized despite several attempts.
In 2005 under the direction of the then Minister for Education and Culture, a committee was formed to review the draft document and in 2007, the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports gathered information from key stakeholders such as Youth Organizations, high school students and incarcerated youth in an effort to obtain information on the issues facing our youth. Madame Speaker, although much time and effort went into the process the Youth policy was not completed.
Madame Speaker when I entered office in 2011, there was still no youth Policy in place to provide strategic vision and direction to ensure better lives, livelihoods and success outcomes for the Territory’s youth. The establishment of a Virgin Islands National Policy and Strategic Framework became a top priority of the Ministry of Education and Culture and in October 2012 a committee was established to finalize the Policy.
Madame Speaker, the Committee met with various organisations as the information collected in 1996 and 2005 could not be relied upon due to the passage of time. The First Draft of the Policy was submitted in May 2013. The Committee made further refinements to the document and a Revised Draft was submitted on Tuesday 4th February 2014.
Madame Speaker, to ensure that we were accurately representing the youth of the Territory, an additional stakeholders consultation was conducted in June 2014. Their recommendations were considered in the further refinement of the draft. The draft was subsequently vetted and finalized by Ms Dwynette Eversley, former Programme Director for the Commonwealth Youth Programme Caribbean Centre and the Ministry of Education. The Final Draft of the policy was submitted to the Ministry in July 2014 and the Virgin Islands National Youth Policy and Strategic Framework was approved by Cabinet in December 2014.
Madame Speaker, The Virgin Islands National Youth Policy and Strategic Framework holds the interest of our Virgin Islands Youth at its core. Youth accessibility to quality education and training, decent work and livelihood opportunities and being equipped to contribute to and live in a safe and secure society are core values of the Policy.
Madame Speaker, the Virgin Islands National Youth Policy aims to ensure that youth have access to quality sports and recreational activities as an integral part of their development and well-being, and the availability of quality programmes and services that cater to young people’s physical, mental and emotional wellness.
The Virgin Islands National Youth Policy puts measures in place to give youth a strong sense of national pride and belonging and for them to volunteer their talents and skills to enhance their own wellbeing, the community and national development.
Moreover Madame Speaker, the policy explains the role of government, the private sector, faith based and other organisations supporting the overall development of the youth of the Virgin Islands to ensure that at all levels in our society, we are conducting business, developing plans and creating opportunities with the future of these islands in mind, our young people.
The priorities of the VI National Youth Policy include the creation of the Virgin Islands National Youth Commission, the National Youth Council and the National Youth Parliament.
Madame Speaker, the Virgin Islands National Youth Commission will be an advisory body on all affairs concerning the youth of the Virgin Islands. Allowances have been made for this body in the budget and we have a draft of the VI National Youth Commission Act to be presented to Cabinet.
Madame Speaker, the National Youth Council will serve as the umbrella body that represents youth organizations in the Virgin Islands and is mandated to act on issues that impact Virgin Islands youth. It will provide programme support in a number of areas for the successful implementation of the policy.
The National Youth Parliament will provide participants between the ages of 18-29 with an opportunity to understand in theory and practice the important principles of governance, democracy, the rule of law and human rights to provide a basis for the development of skills to advocate meaningfully on different programmes and themes that impact young people. This will be one of the programmes led by the National Youth Council.
I believe that the Ministry of Education and Culture has been successful in creating a strategic vision and direction to ensure better lives, livelihoods and success outcomes for the Territory’s youth.
Madam Speaker, I wish to thank the many persons who have made the Virgin Islands National Youth Policy and Strategic Framework a reality. I thank the National Youth Policy Committee, Ms. Drusilla Fahie, Chairman, and members: Ms. Xavyrna Samuels, Mr. Theodore James, Ms. Lauren Welch, Mr. Coy Levons, Mr. Melvin Turnbull Jr., Ms. Sabrina Matthew, Ms. Sharie deCastro, Mrs. Desirie Harrigan, Mr. Bevin George, Ms. Jessica Callwood and Ms. Avelinda Freeman, some of whom are in the gallery with us today. I also thank Ms. Dwynette Eversley whose experience in youth development was invaluable, and Mrs. Brenda Lettsome-Tye, Assistant Secretary, and Permanent Secretary Dr. Marcia Potter who ensured that the job got done.
Thank you very much Madame Speaker.