The glory days of Cayman’s past are gone, according to Education Minister Rolston Anglin, speaking at the recent Cayman Islands National Youth Development Symposiu,m which brought together students, teachers and government as well as others interested in the sustainable development of Cayman’s youth. Now it’s time to grasp the reality of life in Cayman today, which means properly listening to young people, developing a strategic plan to aid their progress and then acting upon it, the Minister said. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull reports.
According to Anglin, the Cayman Islands appears to invest more money per child than anywhere else on earth, with more programmes targeting the youth, more churches per capita, and playing fields, basketball pitches and community libraries available in all districts, yet a high level meeting of government officials was recently deemed necessary to look at the rising crime taking place within the community, generally committed by youths.
From this, Anglin drew the conclusion that there appeared to be a huge disconnect between young people and adults. He used the analogy of his two cell phones, one that he used overseas on which he could not get a connection in Cayman; the other his Blackberry that was in constant use here.
“Both networks are strong and reliable but only one is connected,” he said.
Rolston said he was fortunate to grow up in what he termed the “bridge generation” which, he said, still connected with the older folk.
He spoke of his own childhood and adolescence in which he says he retained a connection with his family (in particular his mother and his older brother) and spoke of his passion for break dancing as a young person.
“My mother looked at my high tops, brightly coloured laces and bandana and saw me go off with my break dancing troupe, but she never judged me.
She allowed me to become my own person,” he explained. “My mother came from a generation that enjoyed quadrille dancing and calypso music, so all this was completely foreign to her, yet she still embraced me.”
Making the connection – a tough road ahead
Anglin said that nowadays adults were in “choppy waters” when it came to understanding young people and that a chart was needed in order to be able to navigate these waters and steer the ship into safe harbour.
“For the last two decades we have been in waters we don’t understand and therefore we don’t know how to connect,” he ventured.
While admitting that there were many adults within Cayman’s community who were working extremely hard to improve the lot of the community and the lives of young people in particular, he went on to say that pushing one’s own values down the throats of the youth was a sure fire way for them to back away and ultimately lose them.
“We have to accept the Cayman Islands of today and get off our high horse,” he stated.
The role of the church must change
Just because an individual regularly was seen at church does not necessarily make them a great role model for young people, Anglin discussed.
“We talk about what a God-fearing people we are, yet we have adults who go to church regularly but don’t fundamentally practice what they are taught there,” he furthered.
Anglin likened those individuals as “chur
ch attendees” who perpetuated a cycle of going to church only when they were “under the cloak” of their parents, only to stop attending when they could and then go back to church when they have children of their own, in a bid to instil some sort of moral values in their offspring.
“Ultimately, of course, at the end of their lives everyone goes to church because everyone wants to go to heaven!” he added.
Anglin said he believes everyone is really God fearing at heart, no matter whether they had been labelled “good” or “bad” by the community for acts they may have committed.
“I believe that they are good in their heart and that the seeds we plant as God fearing individuals are very important,” he said. “Never-the-less, we should not be surprised as to where we have got to today.”
Anglin said that we focus far too often on what young people are doing wrong and not enough on what they are doing right, even when it comes to church going.
“Some people might believe that it is maybe not the best use of their time to go to church every Sunday,” he said.
Changing the mindset of adults
“In my day” and “when I was young” are phrases that young people just do not want to hear, according to the Minister.
“We need to help them develop their own stories, not regurgitate our own,” he commented. “Otherwise they simply shut down. We cannot reach back to the glory days, which we brag about so often. We need to live in today.”
The way forward
Anglin anticipated that the one day CI National Youth Development Symposium would bring about tangible ideas, which would allow the government and others to listen, think and then enact social change. He hoped that the voice of young people would be heard and that their views would be taken into consideration when it comes to strengthening the education system to help them achieve their dreams.
“We currently have lots of networks that look to the needs of young people – the government, churches, the Chamber of Commerce, the education profession, service clubs and other various networks, yet these networks are not connected and the greatest travesty of all is that they do not appear to be connected to the young people themselves,” he said.
Anglin urged every sphere of Cayman life to assist in this process and he made the promise that the government would ensure that these networks get properly hooked up.