SINCE time immemorial, there have been complaints regarding the inequity of resources and opportunities availed to youngsters in rural and inner-city Jamaica in comparison to those living outside those spaces.
So Career & Education rounded up two tertiary Sagicor scholars — students who have received academic scholarships from the banking institution — and gave them an opportunity to ventilate their grouses with the education system.
Venessa Daley, 21, is pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration at the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech). She said discrimination, misappropriation of funds, and lack of information contribute to a lack of assistance and resources for youngsters living in inner-city and rural communities.
"Oftentimes people are treated differently based on their geographical location. For example, someone in Cherry Gardens may be given preference for something over someone in Tivoli Gardens. Corruption affects the allocation of the appropriated resources, so, for example, the funds may have been given for the inter-city youth but not received. A lack of information on resources may also affect the amount of resources issued. Many times grants and bursaries are available but aren't advertised."
Daley added that there is the issue of a lack of educational opportunities, such as scholarships and grants, for poor and middle-class youngsters who seek to pursue tertiary education.
"The stated requirements may be too much for individuals to acquire or reach such as GPA [grade point average], community service, etcetera. Additionally, some may be for a specific area of study or community area and therefore disqualify some youths who meet all the other requirements. Lack of information on the available scholarships and grants may also play a role," she reasoned.
Saevion McFadden, 20, who is pursuing a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) at The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, agreed, saying the deplorable state in which some young people in innercity and rural communities live is completely unacceptable and, according to him, cannot be justified in any capacity.
"Most young people in these living conditions tend to have to choose between furthering their success and attaining their survival," he told Career & Education.
"And in having choices of this nature all the time, is it likely that they are not able to receive the higher education they would have desired, get access to quality health care, or gain access to essential social services like water and electricity, making them not as productive or operational in the societies of the Commonwealth, and is a major contributor to them most likely entering new avenues that are not as credible or founded in order to receive the life they want?"
McFadden said the management of organised crime in countries in the Commonwealth is predominantly headed by the young people with the same "sad rationale".
"Yes, one can admit that governments have done an amount of work to alleviate their conditions, but it has not reached a state, in my opinion, that can see it becoming positively impactful to these youngsters who are in need."
Daley pointed to the fact that many of these youngsters eventually go overseas to study, and some don't return to Jamaica when they have completed studies. This, she believes, is a recipe for disaster for Jamaica if left unattended.
"It leads to brain drain and underdevelopment of our country. However, the political and economic landscape doesn't provide them. In other words, Jamaica isn't attractive enough to convince these individuals to come back as another country does."
McFadden added: "We cannot ignore the increasing brain drain that is taking place in our country, that is seeing others not wanting to stay in Jamaica, particularly, because of the opportunities that exist in other countries. If we continue at this rate, the country will soon no longer have a productive society that can function to increase the sustainable development that is required for our future."
He lamented that local scholarships are not "typically easy" for poor and middle-class youngsters to attain because only people who are associated in some way to the teams promoting/offering these scholarships have access to them.
"Unlike those who don't have these connections, they are the ones who would need the opportunities to apply. And, unfortunately, due to the limited number of scholarships that exist, and the specific criteria associated with them all, it can be very difficult to attain such scholarships. The truth is that many people would apply to scholarships, however, some criteria make them unable to.
"These limitations, too, are further exacerbated when the degree of choice is taken into consideration as prospective law and medicine students have an even tougher time getting scholarships that can apply to them, thereby being forced to enter the open category of scholarships, which, suffice it to say, is the most competitive aspect of scholarship applications."
The Commonwealth Secretariat's youth development work is delivered through the Commonwealth Youth Programme, which has been supporting member countries for over 40 years.
Both Daley and McFadden said they were oblivious to such a programme.
"They could change the way they market the programme in the country. Social media is a powerful tool that can be used to reach the youth of Jamaica, in addition to the usage of popular icons or influencers. They could also target high school students through clubs, fairs or events," Daley said.
Further, McFadden believes that the programme can get a boost in awareness by simply amending the content to youth-friendly avenues, "like TikToks and Instagram Reels, to make youth more interested in the information being given to them, as opposed to the typical post that would have too many words in them. I have always said it: Youth do not always want to read on social media, so if you can avoid anything that would force them to, do exactly that."
He noted that it would be great to see the programme on other social media platforms like WhatsApp, which is heavily used by Caribbean youth.
"Undoubtedly, more people would be aware or even apply to the programme if these were implemented."
However, both youngsters are not equally satisfied with the emphasis being placed on youth-focused initiatives locally.
Daley said she is only partially satisfied.
"I believe more can be done to aid the Jamaican youth in driving these initiatives. They can improve by providing more mentorship programmes or training."
But McFadden isn't.
"I am not particularly satisfied, to be completely honest, as the Commonwealth's services and technical support aren't readily seen by the youth of the Jamaican society, and I believe that would be required to effectively see the support that youth-led initiatives are all hoping and aspiring towards."