Our St. Martin youth don’t need militarization, they need empowerment

Dear Editor,

  While authority figures regularly condemn our youngsters, calling out undesirable behaviour, they seem misguided in how to adequately address these behaviours and empower our youngsters.

  In 2011, I created the programme “Get off the Block, Get on the Bus, and Get Busy” (GB3) to try to address the immediate needs of our wandering youth. The programme was praised by a number of people, including subsequent ministers, as a step in the right direction.

  Yet today, a decade later, not one person in office has presented a plan to address the empowerment of our young people, especially our young men, in a comprehensive and sustainable manner.

  Instead, what we see over the years are a string of ad-hoc measures, a little funding here and there for youth-related programmes, some training here and there for personnel to quickly fill critical vacancies, and a return to yesterday’s models – the exact models that have left so many of our challenges unresolved – to solve today’s problems.

  Our lone university, a beacon of hope when it started in 1989, now sits as an “empty shell,” as one local reporter puts it, void of any substantive programmes based on a vision of nation-building.

  Meanwhile, the University of Curaçao and foreign institutions are actively competing for our young minds and bodies to fill their empty classes.

  We see contractors lining up to bid to build a new “state of the art” prison and discussions about creating military-style training for our youth while the rest of the modern world is seeking to build strong economies through education reform that empowers their people in areas such as literacy, finance, science, and technology.

  We complain about the level of violence our youth are exposed to in music videos and video games. Yet those in authority legitimize organized violence by exposing our youth to these European-styled militarized programmes – that, if I may dare add, are part of a historic, institutionalized system, in which the black skin of especially our young men is still seen, and invariably hated, as an enemy for police and soldiers to be threatened by, to criminalize (including to be taught to self-hate), and even to choke or be shot to death.

  A quick glance around the world shows that the kind of militarization that is being proposed by our minister of justice for our youth in St. Martin has only served to legitimize organized violence, including increase in armed gang activities, and to further disenfranchise the youth of the countries and territories where they are used.

Our youth do not need militarization.

  What they need is to be empowered to expand and reach their full human potential. They deserve to be educated in a system that recognizes their individual gifts and talents and nurtures these talents to create a more empowered nation.

  There has to be a bigger vision to equip our youngsters, our future leaders, with the skills and knowledge to compete in a globalized world and to create a sustainable economy where all St. Martin individuals and families will be able to thrive.

  To help them, those in authority should be innovating, creating new models, specifically designed to address our unique challenges and to contribute to solutions for our region rather than trying to solve today’s problems with yesterday’s failed solutions.

Rhoda Arrindell, PhD