Government has failed the boys and girls on “the block”.
Former Minister of State in the Ministry of Youth Affairs, Cynthia Forde, said despite changing the name from Project Oasis to Youth Mainstreaming Programme after coming to office in January, 2008, the current Democratic Labour Administration had kept the basic initiative.
But despite keeping the programme it severely criticised in campaigning during the last general election, the St. Thomas MP said a number of Barbadian young men and women were returning to the block because Youth Mainstreaming was inadequate.
“The only sad thing I can say about what is happening now is that the project has been scaled down to a level where we have more boys and girls now on the block for the last three to four years, searching to be meaningfully engaged in a society that they have been born and raised and educated and want to be able to make a contribution to,” Forde told the House of Assembly today.
She was leading the Barbados Labour Party’s response during debate on Government’s new National Youth Policy.
“I am proud to be a part of the Project Oasis, and indeed the overall Youth Affairs Department’s work, because I saw a phenomenal upsurge in the number of young people who were meaningfully engaged and were giving back to the country Barbados that we all so love, and I think that that is the most outstanding aspect of it,” she said.
“Now, the Democratic Labour Party, in an effort to become the government …, walked the length and breadth of Barbados just before the last (general) election and told the people it is largesse from the [Barbados] Labour Party and people who were Members of Parliament are the ones getting things for the people in their district and not others and it boiled down to weed whackers and weed trimmers and lawn mowers and that kind of thing.”
She recalled that Project Oasis had been created to meet need identified by the marginalised young people themselves, something which the DLP did not appear to understand.
“They (young people on the block) indicated clearly the society had failed them and that they want to be meaningfully engaged in whatever would have been happening in their society to be able to make a contribution in their own way,” she stated.
“It is a fallacy for any of us in this honorable chamber or anywhere else to believe that the young people that were seen on the block were all young people who could not read and write.
“Many of them were well qualified but they did not want to be working in anybody’s office, they preferred to be young entrepreneurs, but they wanted a helping hand to be able to do it, and we know, Mr. Speaker, how some people sometimes ostracise persons who are Rastafarians or who have a different look from us, or who have a different philosophy.
“And therefore they were not getting any assistance from the banks and from the other lending institutions and they were captured by the team of youth commissioners who directed them to the ministry and a policy was designed called project Oasis.” (SC)