- Rudolph Brown/Chief Gleaner Photographer
With the 2009 Budget Debate just a few weeks away, young Jamaicans are calling on the Government to direct its focus at improving the education sector.
Jenielle Edwards, of Wolmer's High School for Girls, was one of many youth leaders who stressed recently that education, or the lack of it, negatively impacts the Jamaican economy.
"I want the Government to spend the money on developing schools and other social institutions. I think that because so many of our young population is uneducated, it tends to impact our economy moving forward," Edwards told The Gleaner.
She was one of many youth in attendance for the Caribbean District Optimist International Second Quarter Conference, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston last Saturday.
Education absolutely free
Ashlee Anderson, of Campion High School, said she believes the Government should aim to "make education absolutely free" by picking up the tab for the troublesome auxiliary fees that schools still charge despite education's current status as "free".
"We have limited resources and it's kind of hard to split it (how the nation's funds should be directed) because a lot of things that don't concern me directly, as a youth, need to be dealt with too," Anderson said. "But I think the education system needs to be dealt with because, without education, Jamaica is not going anywhere."
She added: "If nothing else is dealt with, I really think the education we receive needs to be stepped up."
Some of the youth suggested that the HEART Trust/National Training Agency be expanded or duplicated, and that more universities and schools at every level be created to provide greater access in terms of both volume and variety.
In addition to the discussion about education, Mikhail Webb, of Calabar High School, said he was concerned about how the Government has divested Jamaican companies and how non-Jamaican corporations seem to own the bulk of the island's industries.
"To how I see things, the economy is a foreign economy, most of the things we are supposed to own belong to foreigners," Webb lamented.
Kemar Jennings agreed with Webb's concerns about the the nation's dependence on external entities.
"I want to see us move from a dependent state to a more independent state, using our resources more," Jennings said.
The young thinker went further in his discourse on the nations situation, arguing that the wider citizenry need to play its part in fixing the current situation by paying taxes.
"The tax is a problem. People need to be paying their taxes because without the revenue coming in, the Government can't do what it needs to do like buy proper educational tools and fix the agricultural sector."