Your country needs you. That is the message Minister of People Empowerment and Elder Affairs Kirk Humphrey sent out to the scores of young men who are now singing a tune of change in their behaviour after taking part in the ten-weeks Shaping Adolescence to Function in their Environment (SAFE) programme.
Addressing the graduation ceremony for the young men ages 12 to 18 years at the St Leonard School on Saturday, Humphrey said he was on the verge of bringing about major transformation within his ministry and he wanted young men across Barbados to step up to the plate and start taking more leading roles and grab hold of opportunities when they are created.
“I know it is very difficult to be a young man at this time but I have to say to you I am proud of you,” he told the graduands.
“Barbados needs its young men to stand up. Barbados needs its young men to come forward. Barbados needs the parents of young men to push them forward because many of them just need a push. I know this country needs you, it desperately needs you,” said Humphrey.
He also urged young men across the country to be more innovative and contribute to Barbados’ development, as he also called on parents to be more involved in their children’s lives.
Humphrey also expressed concern about the education system, saying it was archaic and built in a way to allow some to succeed and become high achievers while others barely scraped by. However, he expressed satisfaction that the Mia Mottley-led administration was currently looking at a major overhaul of the education system.
Humphrey lauded the SAFE programme and the Men’s Empowerment Network Support organisation, saying he was committed to contributing to their continued success.
The eight-year-old SAFE programme is designed to address issues relating to emotional and psycho-social development of adolescents and help them function better in society. It is managed by a team of psychologists and social workers.
The programme, which was born out of the Men’s Empowerment Network Support (MENS), covers a range of areas including leadership, etiquette, self-image and self-esteem, team building, physical education, conflict resolution, mental health and sexual and reproductive health.
The ten-week programme, which ran from March to mid-May, saw a total of 64 young men taking part.
Founder and President of the MENS organisation Fabian Sargeant said he has seen a growing need for the services of the organisation, as he pleaded with Humphrey to help them get a permanent home.
“We have been receiving a lot of phone calls and interests from schools and parents across Barbados to do some work with their boys,” said Sargeant.
“Going forward we want to create an environment where these boys can come every day. We want a full-time office … Ultimately, we would like to have an office where they can come and create that safe space where you can come and breeze and get correct information and you will know there is a group that can help you in your development,” he said.
“We can only do that with resources. There is a need. Minister there is a need for this,” he said in a direct plea to the Minister of People Empowerment.
Noting that many of the young men with whom he has come into contact learn from taking part in various activities instead of sitting down and writing, Sargeant urged parents to reconsider their parenting style in some cases to help their children in their development.
“You need to understand that the way you would have parented these boys when they were six and eight [years old] that style of parenting cannot happen when they are 13, 14 and 15 [years old],” said Sargeant, who noted that he welcomed news of an educational reform.
He said too often people were quick to label some boys as “delinquent, troublesome and heard-ears”, but failed to realise their brilliance and potential because they were not given the chance to show it.
“These young men need empowerment,” said Sargeant, who urged parents not to give up on their children who they deemed as troublesome. He also urged young people to grab hold of various developmental and educational opportunities.
“I give you my commitment that I will support this programme again next year and later on this year with little more funds so that you can do the things I think you need to do,” Humphrey said.
During the graduation ceremony, which was dotted with entertainment, the students were presented with their certificate of completion and some of them specially awarded for a dramatic improvement in behaviour. (MM)