Full Disclosure
September 26, 2008
Impact of positive youth development

If we are to have a genuine chance to make a difference in our society, the process must begin by making positive changes within ourselves as individuals. This message remains globally true, since strong individuals build strong communities, and in turn strong societies. It is in this regard that the nurturing of systems which embrace and foster positive youth development must be seen as the next best opportunity to build a greater nation.{{more}}

When our youth show a great degree of enthusiasm, as we are currently experiencing, to attain certification in various disciplines, it is definitely an important step in the right direction, leading towards comprehensive youth development. Nevertheless, it must be noted that mass certification must not be misconstrued as the be all and end all of youth development. Youth development must be seen as the natural process of developing one’s capacities in a total sense. Whilst certification may play a significant role in this most important process, the individual’s ability to act responsibly in their daily experiences with people, places and possibilities provides a better measure as to the individual’s ability to contribute to both self and national development. In other words, mere certification without more cannot be used interchangeably with the word education, and must never be seen to be a reflection of positive youth development. In fact, certification simply represents an aspect of positive youth development.

Youth development has been defined by Bonnie Politz, in his work Making the Case: Community Foundations and Youth Development, as the ongoing process in which all young people are engaged and invested. Through youth development, young people attempt to meet their basic personal and social needs, and build the competencies necessary for successful adolescent and adult life. It is an approach, framework, a way to think about young people that focuses on their capacities, strengths, and developmental needs, and on their weaknesses and problems.

It is clear that all young people have basic needs that are critical to survival and healthy development. They include a sense of safety and structure; belonging and membership; self-worth and an ability to contribute; independence and control over one’s life; closeness through good social relationships, and competency and mastery. At the same time, to succeed as adults, our youth must acquire positive attitudes and appropriate behaviors and skills in health, personal or social life, knowledge, reasoning and creativity, vocation, and citizenship.

The majority of our population is comprised of youth. The role to be assumed by us will have an invaluable impact on both the macro and micro societal issues which today are arresting national attention. Our nation’s children and youth have been afforded the right to Universal Access to Education. This in itself will help to reduce the disparities of wealth and power by providing our youth with skills to enable them to find a valued place in society. The immediate task that remains is to build our youth product as far as humanly possible, so that our intellect, skills, aptitudes, vision, cultural awareness, energy, commitment and health will enable us to spearhead any effort to address issues of poverty alleviation and allow us to grapple with the many challenges which we will have to face. It is, therefore, imperative that we change with the changing times.

It is established that a body of youth receptive to admonition may very well be in the best position to define social change. This is based on the relative advantage of our youth to engage the social imagination of our times and in so doing contribute to bridging the generational gap which surfaces in various sectors of our society. There is an immediate urgency.

We must pursue a relentless search for positive youth development. Positive youth development occurs from an intentional process that promotes positive outcomes for young people by providing opportunities, relationships and the support to fully participate. Youth development takes place in our families, peer groups, schools, neighbourhoods and communities. Youth development is far too important to the advancement of our people to be left to chance. Hence, there is a need for more young persons to become actively involved in charting their future. The process of positive youth development begins with you!

Saboto Caesar is a Lawyer and Unity Labour Party Senator.