A robust debate roared in the Queen’s Park Steel Shed today among secondary and tertiary school students as the mandatory versus voluntary youth service debate once again reared its head.
During a discussion on the 50 years of universal free education in Barbados, titled EduNATION Barbados – Let’s Talk Education, students clashed as the various views on whether students should have a choice to volunteer their services was raised.
Tertiary level student Oein Josiah said he believed service should be mandatory for students to enable them to give back to society.
“I think it should be mandatory. It is our society and it will not be the end of everything. If we are given something, we should have to in turn give it back. However, the mandatory part is not something that should be too burdening on the individual, because we are going to have a social life, we are going to have family and things we would like to do. What I think, if something is mandatory, it should be an hour or two, maybe over a year period,” he suggested.
Khadisha Baker of St. James Secondary however took issue with the suggestion of a mandatory service. She was one who said she did not believe students should be bonded to serve.
“I don’t think it should be mandatory, because really and truly, if you don’t want to do something you are not going to do it properly and it would just be running everything down into the ground. You should be able to give back but not mandatory because that would be going back to slavery,” she posited.
“There is more than one way to give back to your country,” she argued, even though she said students should not get a choice on whether or not to attend school.
St. Lucy Secondary School teacher Rohan Nurse however raised the question of what would happen if no one came forward to volunteer, querying where that would leave the society in the future.
Moderator Damian Mascoll enquired of the students how many of them were part of service clubs, to which a majority of the 50-odd present raised their hands.
“Already there are lots of people volunteering,” said Mascoll. “It is not a problem for these young people. In all fairness to young people and I have spent the last 12 or so years in the youth movement at the national level, and the majority of young people will volunteer and actually give back something.”
He said he believed there were some who were not aware of the opportunities available to serve, but the National Youth Service would allow them to do so.
Josiah however returned to the mic to say he still supported a view of mandatory service.
“The mandatory part, for those who give back to the community or the next generation, community service is a good thing because it assists you as you go into the world of work. In the workforce, managers don’t look for people who have qualifications on paper. They would like to know how you could apply these things and would like to know you are well rounded.” (LB)