"Youth Speaking to Youths"
UNESCO has partnered with Caribbean Vizion, Violence Prevention Alliance, Ministry of Education of Jamaica and other stakeholders to pilot a programme to promote a culture of peace and inspire positive behaviour change in youths using music, drama and multimedia.
Forty schools, with over 10,000 students, in Jamaica participated in the project. They debated, shared experiences and made recommendation issues such as crime and violence, information literacy, drug abuse, HIV/AIDS and health, child abuse and, the environment.
Over 250 copies of UNESCO/UWI video productions: "Seeing Red, The Science of Violence"; "Sick to Death: The Science of HIV/AIDS"; "Danger Zone: Illegal Dumping and Sand mining"; "Media Literacy" were distributed to these schools and used during the school tour.
The initiative was spearheaded by the Caribbean Vizion, a regional youth organisation led by a young dynamic 14-year-old girl from Trinidad and Tobago, Chocolate Allen. Chocolate Allen is a youth activist and performing artiste. She has rewritten the adage that, "Children must be seen and not heard" to read, "Children must be seen and heard as you cannot heal what you do not understand".
The school tour culminated with a National Educulture student forum, at the Micro Counselling Center on Friday 27th June 2008. Three students from each of the forty schools and institutions visited during the tour were selected to represent their school, accompanied by a teacher at the event. During the school tour students discussed and aired their views on a number of social issues challenging young people today. The main objective of the solution oriented National Forum was to allow students to create their own collective vision of what changes they wanted to see after identifying the many existing problems.
This interactive session brought out valid points and the students were at ease and extremely articulate in expressing their strong views on sex in the classroom, gangs in schools, teenage pregnancy, drug and alcohol abuse, child abuse and HIVAIDS awareness. A presentation on information/media literacy, by Mr Alton Grizzle, UNESCO Programme Officer, reinforced the importance of information literacy to youths in combating and dealing with the many challenges of life.
A slate of recommendations from students in participating schools was documented for submission to Ministry of Education and other policy makers.
Young people have a critical role to play in crime prevention and conflict resolution in their communities. They feel that they are not being listened to and that not enough opportunities, similar to the one provided through this project, are presented for them to express how they feel and to make recommendations on the scourge of crime and gang war as well as other social ills in Jamaica.
This initiative was a joint project of the UNESCO Kingston's, communication and information, education and cultures sectors.