From time to time, the question arises
as to the legitimacy of a national youth service as was proposed by
the late Sir Lynden Pindling. And once again the editorial in
Saturday, May 7 edition of the Freeport News asks the question.
I say unequivocally: “Yes!” But in what context was
this idea proposed?
Long before the idea arose for a national
service programme, I had instituted community service hours as a requisite
for matriculation from Grand Bahama Catholic High School. Presently,
every high school in the nation has taken the clue, and now requires
this service as part of their high school program. We have now
even made it an integral component of our apprenticeship training program
at the Grand Bahama Shipyard. Whether in school or in the workplace,
we have a nation to build.
Therefore, the idea of a national service
was in the making and in the consciousness of the Bahamian psyche for
some time before Sir Lynden publicly proposed the idea as a required
national regime. Unfortunately, Sir Lynden’s idea, when it was
finally fleshed out into a bill to be presented to parliament
and the public, had taken on some sinister aspects which did not harmonize
with the general Bahamian tradition and sense of freedom. Actually
it turned out to be nothing more than the regurgitation of the Guyanese
model, based more on the perpetuation of the then existing political
status quo. The model would have resulted in a colossal interruption
of family life, requiring married and older individuals to be mandatorily
recruited. It did not take into consideration those individuals
intellectually and financially capable to continue their education at
the tertiary level.
Then one of the most sinister aspects
was the militaristic elements which would have allowed young recruits
to be trained in the use of guns and other warfare instruments.
At the very time we had blatant reminder from our Caribbean friends
of what could result from placing arms in the hands of trigger happy
recruits. The situation is immortalized in the song: “Government
Boots.” Imagine the number of murders we could have today, as
It was for these and many other historically
recorded reasons, that the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association, then
under the direction of the then President, Fred Smith and myself led
the war to ‘Kill the Bill.’ We, however, did not actually
kill the bill; it died a natural death as it was eventually seen by
the majority of Bahamians to be the death knell for many of our inalienable
and national rights and freedoms.
However, we did not stop there.
We carried out a major investigation of national service plans around
the globe; we held wide consultations with the Bahamian public, spent
many hours in research, and in due course, our President, Mr. Fred
Smith compiled a modern, enlightened model of a national service bill
which would have catapulted our young Bahamians into a nation building
army rather than an armed force designed to bolster the state status
quo. However, as have gone other models proposed by individuals
and committees, it sits gathering dust in some cabinet closet.
Our beloved departed friend, Calvin Kemp, who had a passion for the
systematic development of our youth, also left a document as a model
of national service. In recent times also the government has commissioned
committees to draft plans for such programs, but they too are dying
an unnatural death, hidden away in some government office.
Even the most simple among us could
only conclude that our governments have not had the political will or
have not seen the necessity to invest in the systematic development
of our youth beyond the high school level. Consequently, thousands
leave high school every June with not the slightest notion as to what
their lot will be in July or beyond. We send them
forth with few, if any, tools with which to build a life for themselves.
Ninety percent cannot find jobs, only five to ten percent have
the financial resources to continue their education at the tertiary
level. And then we wonder why they so quickly become pariahs on
society? We set them up for failure and then they return to wreck
havoc on every institution and structure in our land. We are to
blame, for by our inaction we have laid a criminal path for them.
Self preservation is as serious natural instinct and when it kicks in
at a very early age it employs whatever instruments and means at hand
to attain its goal; guns and drugs have become the weapons of choice
in our beloved land.
God and nature have blessed us with
enormous natural resources, like land, sea, climate, sunshine, water.
However, we have become blinded by what I term parasitic economies,
those that feed of others, mainly outside our borders, in order to
sustain us, like tourism, banking, gun running, drug trafficking, people
trafficking, etc. These have little or nothing to do with the
natural abilities of our people, but they bring instant financial satisfaction.
We then produce another breed of persons who feed off these aspects,
for they see no other means for feeding themselves.
We do our youth a criminal disfavor
if we do not arm them, every one of them, with means to survive once
they exit the halls of high school. We should be able to track
every young man and every young woman and make certain that he/she is
gainfully and honorably employed. Today, we are reaping
the bitter fruit of our own planting or lack of such. We cannot
but admit that we may have lost a large number of few generations; but
God forbid that we allow this to continue among the thousands who are
still under our charge, manageable and many of whom are very willing
to make a radical shift in the direction of this nation. We are talking
about approximately less than sixty thousand young people with whom
we have a God-given obligation to guide, protect and elevate to a much
greater deserving power in our small nation of little more than quarter
of a million people.
I would chance to predict that the
next general election will not only be decided by the droves of the
unemployed youth in our nation, but that the election platforms will
out of necessity be based upon how we as a nation will recognize, organize,
elevate and invest in our young people in order to save this nation
from total anarchy and destruction. Next month, June, we again
send forth another six thousand plus high school graduates. And
into what are we dumping them?! Indeed, one sure thing, thousands
of them will be eligible to vote for the first time. Every politician
worth his/her salt must recognize and address the plight of young people
in our land and a meager handout at election time will be nothing but
an insult to the future builders of this nation.
Legislations, law enforcement, and
a plethora of modern police techniques have not and will not result
in the transformation of our society. This transformation will
only come about when we as a people recognized the role to be played
by every citizen in this country with enormous emphasis on the youth
of the nation, by giving everyone of them a meaningful place.
Remember, a nation is judged by the way it treats its children.
In this regard we would be harshly judged!
Indeed Sir Lynden’s idea of national
service was good and it’s not too late to institute it with a modern
and enlightened model. Implementing it at the high school level, which
has been widely advocated, will allow our youth to build society and
the chances of them wanting to destroy it later will be enormously lessened.
We still have great and enlightened minds in this nation among the young
and the old, whose motivation is nothing more than the realization of
the good and full realization of the potential of our people.
Politics aside, we can easily and readily bring about a radical, dynamic
and life-supporting transformation in our little, but immensely blessed
nation. We simply need political will and financial resources
allocated to realize our dream. We have willing hands!
GB Human Rights Association
About the Author:
Mr. Joseph Darville is a native of Long Island, Bahamas and a resident of Freeport, Grand Bahama.
Teacher [English, French] at St. Augustine’s College in Nassau.
Teacher [French] Senior School Coordinator and Guidance Counselor a Queen’s College in Nassau.
Past Vice-President of the Bahamas Union of Teachers
He is a founding member and past President of the Bahamas Counselor’s
Past President of the Grand Bahama Mental Health Association
Past Vice President of the Caribbean Federation of Mental Health
Founding member and Chairman of Operation Hope, [volunteer drug prevention, education & rehabilitation program]
Co-Chairman of the Bahamas National Drug Council
Founding member and Past -President of Grand Bahama Human Rights Association
Founding member of the Caribbean Human Rights Network
Administrative Vice-President of the Freeport YMCA for three years
is an Advanced Master/Teacher in Reiki training, a natural energy
healing method, as well as a teacher of Transcendental Meditation.
Presently, he is Director of Workforce Development
the Grand Bahama Shipyard. He has received many awards for outstanding
service and achievement in teaching, communication, and citizenship.
Joseph can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org