…Culture, Youth and Sport to see far-reaching improvements
By Kiana Wilburg
Guyanese can expect to see drastic but meaningful changes to systems governing culture, youth and sport.
This was the message delivered by Minister within the Ministry of Education, Nicolette Henry, as she made her contributions to the budget 2016 debates yesterday in the National Assembly.
The presentation effectively responded to Opposition Member Neil Kumar’s assertions that the budget contained nothing for the poor and the nation’s youths.
The Parliamentarian said that throughout this year, the Ministry of Education’s Department of Culture, Youth and Sport will engage in the promotion, protection and preservation of Guyana’s culture. She said that moves would also be made to promote national cohesion and pride using Guyana’s cultural traditions.
In this respect, Henry said that her Ministry is committed to developing a cultural policy. This policy, she stated, will employ culture as a catalyst for mutual understanding and social cohesion.
Henry said that as stated in the APNU+AFC Manifesto, the cultural policy will aim at an ongoing public campaign that seeks to equitably promote the various threads which together form the Guyanese tapestry.
Towards this end, the Minister said that budget 2016 is skillfully crafted to finance programmes in cultural and anthropological studies at the University of Guyana. The Parliamentarian said that the budget provides funding to enhance delivery in all educational and training programmes, particularly strengthening cultural education at the secondary level and the launching of a new creative writing programme.
The politician said that this National Cultural Policy and accompanying Action Plan will be formed after meaningful consultation with experts and other stakeholders, which she stressed, is in keeping with Government’s commitment towards policy formulation.
The Minister said, “A national cultural policy has become an imperative both in terms of our national priorities on heritage conservation and creative industry development, and also from the prospective of our need to mainstream culture into development in keeping with various international commitments.”
“For instance, under the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States Declaration of Havana (2014) Guyana committed to a regional action plan that includes the commitments to ‘Undertake actions to recognize the merit of cultural policies’ and ‘to formulate public policies and implement UNESCO’s Conventions as tools for development.’”
Henry said, too, that the Department of Culture’s Action Plan (2014 -2018) which predates May 2015, lists its first key activity as a commitment To “Review, Enact and implement policy and legal framework for Culture and national heritage.” With this in mind, the Minister said that 2016 is slated for, the Development of cultural policy and public consultations.
The Cultural policy she said, will speak to three areas of Culture. The first will be mainstreaming Culture in Development. Here, Henry said that the principal focus will be the role of culture in human and social development as distinct from economic development with the focus on the three sub-areas of Education, Environment and Citizenship.”
The second area is Cultural Heritage which will be focused on tangible and intangible heritage, with recommendations for research, preservation and discovery going forward.
The third area is development of the Creative Industries. In this case, the focus will be on a blueprint for green housing the creative industries in Guyana in keeping with practices that are both economically and environmentally sustainable.
Regardless of the criticisms by the Opposition to the effect that Government has made no provision for the development for the youth, Henry charged that the evidence in the budget speaks for itself.
She emphasized that Government has a clear vision for the youth and recalled that the Finance Minister, Winston Jordan, even spoke of his consultations with the youth on the 2016 budget, and moves to make this a permanent feature of the budget-planning process.
Henry said that the budget is aimed at empowering young people and providing many measures that will create employment and other opportunities for their growth.
“The Finance Minister noted that having consulted with the youth of Guyana ‘I want to let them know that I listened attentively to them. I considered their requests, and in addition to the millions allocated within various sectors to support youth development, we will work to establish a more permanent structure for entrepreneurship and micro-lending for persons under age 30, as a special Youth Investment Fund’. This no doubt will benefit the youth of Guyana and therefore should be both commended and supported,” the Parliamentarian articulated.
She expressed dismay at the fact that for the last two decades, young people have not realized their potential. The politician blamed this on the previous government which she said took a piecemeal approach to youth development, lacked vision, had no youth policy, and no useful plan for youth development.
“We in the APNU+AFC government are rectifying this situation. We have a clear vision for youth development; we have completed the National Youth Policy (NYP) in consultation and collaboration with the Guyanese youth, international community and other relevant stakeholders. We are now working to complete the National Youth Empowerment Action Plan (NYEAP).”
“This budget must be commended for providing the resources necessary to ensure the training and development of our youth. Significant focus will be placed on youth leadership training with the aim of professionalizing and recognizing youth work.”
Henry also stated that many of the nation’s youth across the 10 Administrative regions are teeming with potential, but need assistance to elevate themselves to the required level.
She told the House of the difficulties faced by those in need of skills training. To aid in improving this state of affairs, Henry revealed that the Ministry has allocated $60M for the rehabilitation of Coldingen workshop, to transform it into a training centre with workshop and other facilities. In addition to this, she said that Government has also allocated $30M to improve the facilities at the Kuru Kuru Training Centre located on Soesdyke/Linden Highway.
The Minister said that the sports department is ideally poised to be a key driver of community mobilization and engagement. This year, she said that Government will continue to refocus, reshape and reorganize this area.
Henry said that for the last two decades the sports department had lost its way, to the extent that Guyana’s only training facility for track and field athletes is situated at Leonora.
“However, we all know where most of our elite track and field athletes live and train,” remarked Henry. She was alluding to the fact that most Guyanese athletes have been found, in numerous cases, training in the National Park or at the Eve Leary Ground.
“Because of this gross anomaly, this Government now has to put a system in place to transport our athletes at a cost that could have been avoided had the initiative been well thought out. I have heard the idiom, ‘There is a method to every madness.’ I am still to see the method in this instance.”
The Junior Minister then spoke to the Ground Enhancement Programme.
“I had the opportunity to review this Programme which had no oversight, no measurable outcomes, no strategic direction and certainly no impact. I am happy to report that the slush funds days are over. No longer will $1M be given in a flippant manner without a clear understanding of what and how it will be used for community development,” expressed the Parliamentarian.
She said that the programme has the potential to be a flagship venture and it is for this reason that this government will ensure that it is refocused for efficiency and efficacy. For this year, she noted that $154 M has been allocated for ground enhancement.
She said that Government will implement a strategic, phased approach to ensure all grounds funded under this initiative meet the minimum standard of a functional community ground
“The days of ad hoc, fragmented and piecemeal approaches are behind us. The focus in 2016 will be on quality rather than quantity. The sports department will also for the first time develop a national database to adequately track and equip federations and associations to monitor athlete training and development,” Henry expressed.
The Minister explained that this database will serve as the primary tool to assess athletes’ development and serves as a mechanism through which athletes are monitored to enhance their training and professional development.
She asserted that this mechanism is not a standalone, but will be integrated with the establishment of a high performance centre and the creation of an elite core of athletes from which the national team will be selected.
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