by Tricia Simon
This is the first article in a series focusing on our youth population as a catalyst for sustainable development.
When we examine societies, we see common threads which determine their success or failure. Allu, wey we goin!!! Our youths are a vital part of our societal development and due to Covid-19 even more so. The reality is that ALL countries are borrowing massive amounts of debts to pay for different programmes. As a result, it is important that we have an educated and resourceful youth population so that when Covid-19 done (2023/2024 est.) they would take their rightful place in helping to drive our economic and societal development.
We as individuals are entitled to and so should bestow upon each other the basic human rights as per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Post-World War II as a global society the basic human rights were codified by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948. The core tenents of our human rights are that they are (a) universal, cover all aspects of our lives and society; (b) egalitarian, meaning they are for everyone; (c) cloaked in empathy; (d) governed by the rule of law, and (e) there is the obligation that each of us should respect the human rights of each other. Is ‘all ah oui in dis togedder’ but at the end of the day, we as individuals have the free will to choose and make positive choices for our collective human good.
The reality is that ancient societies such as our African forefathers utilised these codes as a guidance for their societies from time immemorial, the UN Declaration simply put it is fancy words. The Transatlantic Slave Trade for individuals of Caribbean descent meant that to fully become one’s master, there was the need to break one’s culture. Culture encompasses all aspects of our lives, religion, our intrinsic values, individual and collective goals, practices, institutions, social norms etc. In traditional African culture “The five rites are birth, adulthood, marriage, eldership, and ancestorship. A rite is a fundamental act (or set of rituals) performed according to prescribed social rules and customs.” As descendants of former slaves, our culture should be ingrained in our psyche so that we remember the painful times and always strive for continued success using all the tools of our disposal to say, “never again.”
Our modern societies are provided with many entities where our children are prepared for various rites of passage. The secular ones include the Brownies, Girl Guides and Boy Scouts. The difference is that all of these entities may appear to be “elite” entities by and for the elite, a small minority. The cost to enter and maintain some of these (uniform, transportation, attendance at various events, participation in various events) may not be possible for certain families. So, what happens to those children? The reality is that in an African society, these rites of passage were mandatory in order to be accepted as a viable member of a functioning, progressive society; if not done, the individual was seen as an outcast.
I belong to the Roman Catholic faith and so I was baptised and underwent the rite of communion and confirmation. I vividly remember going to confirmation with Antonia and Genieve and the priest saying, “you have ears that hear at times but we fail to listen at times”. In hindsight, I think the weekly lessons I attended helped to shape my morality, beliefs, attitude and intrinsic values — they acted as a compass for my later years in life. The Seven Day Adventist church has the Pathfinder programme. Truth be told is that societies such as tribes in South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Nigeria conducted some form of rites regarding the above and still do. Even today, we still perform certain rites such as 16th birthday parties all-encompassing consumerism, so what values do they instill on our youth, but I digress, as the focus is on teaching our young boys and girls to become worthy global citizens. For if we as adults fail to teach them, then as ah always say, crappo go smoke we pipe. The reality is that as we become more “secular” and are influenced by other cultures, the question is, who influences our young boys and girls and young adults? The man on the “block”, but if he was not versed on development, then what does he teach?
Why are these rites of passage viewed as being important for societies? The initiation rites for boys of the Basotho tribe provide, “knowledge of family life and extensive lessons in sexuality and educated on the social concepts of their identities”. These rites of passage tend to answer questions such as; who am I; what are my values; what do I stand for; what do I hope to achieve; what is my place in society; how do I contribute to my society? Rites of passage also mark transition from childhood to adulthood, from relatively unproductive life to productive, a citizen from dependency to independence. It includes the right values for a productive life with all its merits. Character traits such as resistance, tenacity, strength and intelligence are also learnt. The importance of human productivity remains a critical tool for societal development and lickle we need to develop.
The family unit is important where we “all live in duh same yard” is still prevalent in Grenada thus, it takes a village to raise a child all part of our traditional African culture. We all know there is a high prevalence of single parents in Grenada, where our men are absent, so who then are to teach our boys how to become men, the women? Nah, time allu men come together and teach the young boys how to be real responsible, decent men and set positive examples for our societal development. And women, allow the men to set positive examples, give them access to shape their sons. The reality is that we all need role models, so if our children are not taught by positive role models, then who teaches them? I shudder to think of who would be their role models and no matter what, we are all connected and affected by the actions of each other. So all the ones who “made it”, come out of the safe “cocoon” of your success and pull up the others, let us leave no child behind. On ting ah glad ah Grenadian for is dat we doh see tings goin wrong and sit still, we go run we mout and talk abou it, who vex vex, if yuh doing wat rite we doh say ah wud.
The Ministry of Social Development needs to be commended with the recent “Man Box” programme which touches on the issue of manhood. Our ancestral Africans appear to start to groom their children to become honourable and productive citizens from the age of 5 where a roadmap is created for their teenage years, parenting/marriage and elderly years. The question is how do we unite to teach such comprehensive programmes? All aspects of our society, civil, religious, governmental, law enforcement, education, social services, health, non-governmental and the business community need to come together. I am idealistic, so maybe Covid-19 can encourage us to come together to teach our children what it means to be “Grenadian.”
The time has come to cease the social experiments where our youths are left to the negative aspects of society, as the social costs are too great. Individuals of my generation are plentiful with an expanse of knowledge etc. If we are not careful, we may be the generation who would be most travelled, most knowledgeable, most accomplished, simply because we fail to pass on the cultural values that we were taught to the next generation. The reality is that we live on one planet and are all interconnected, we all need to rise as one unit, or we shall fall as one unit. Covid-19 should teach us the lesson of how we are all interconnected, imagine a virus one cannot see can wreak such havoc on our lives.
The benefits of teaching our youths positive cultural values are endless; reduction in poverty, crime, increased development, increase in education and overall, a better society, for after all, we are our brother’s keeper.
Tricia Simon is an Attorney-at-Law called to the bar in the State of Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique and the Province of Ontario, Canada.