At a time when wide-spread youth ill-discipline and deviance have become a national talking point, recognised youth para-military organisations, which have served as character builders for generations, are suffering from a crisis of leadership.
According to Commandant of the Barbados Cadet Corps Lieutenant Colonel Errol Brathwaite while enthusiasm levels are still high, enrollment numbers in the school’s cadets programme are less than desirable. In fact, Brathwaite contends that unless the leadership issue is addressed, more of these organisations will eventually become non-existent at some schools. For example, Barbados TODAY understands that the Combermere Cadet Corps, which was regarded as one the leading school cadet programmes, only has 17 students enlisted.
“The enthusiasm is still there, and it is there now even more than it has ever been, but the main challenge is that of leadership. We don’t have enough adults making themselves available to lead, not only in the cadets but all youth organizations. We need to make a greater request for adult leadership. Right now, in the boys scouts, it is a huge challenge. We just don’t have enough persons coming forward to provide leadership and guidance to our young people,” he said, noting that the deficiency was especially pronounced among the male leadership.
He added, “Back in the days from 1904 you had cadet companies like Combermere, Lodge School and Harrison College and you had leaders there, persons on staff, who were there on the ground to guide those youngsters. Right now, we are seeing scouts disappearing from a number of schools and they have disappeared because there are no leaders.”
Pointing to the fact that the increase in violent crime is largely perpetrated by young people, Brathwaite appealed to Barbadians’ sense of civic duty, noting that involvement in these youth organisations can go a long way in addressing the social ills currently impacting the country.
“We have to look at this thing holistically. Look at what is happening in our nation, across the region and across the world and see that young people are crying out for positivity and role models. We as adults need to provide the opportunity for them to be guided if we want to build a strong society and strong communities. If this is what we truly want, then we must do something to ensure that our people understand and appreciate positivity, he said, adding that “this enormous responsibility cannot be left to a few but rather all hands must be put to the plough.
Brathwaite, who is also the principal of the Ellerslie Secondary School, made it clear that even though the need for leadership was great, his organisation had no intention of lowering its selection criteria for those charged with the responsibility of guiding young minds.
“Our leaders don’t necessarily need to have para-military training and each organisation has its particular requirements for leaders. However, it is important to us that we make sure that the persons to whom we are putting our children’s care, are of good standing. So, we will continue to insist that those particular standards are adhered to,” he said.
Brathwaite heaped praises on the those currently giving of their time to these organisations, crediting them for keeping these youth entities afloat.
“We have gone through the process of expanding and we will continue to expand but if there are no leaders available then we are going to continue to have this impact on the ability to raise larger numbers across schools. Right now, these organisations are standing strong because the adults we have are very dedicated, but they are stretched. So, you might have a person leading at multiple organisations and schools,” he stressed.