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Children in Barbados have their say on development goals

© UNICEF Barbados/2007/McClean-Trotman
Students at Harrison College pose with the Hon. Trevour Prescod, Minister of Social Transformation, and the Hon. Hamilton Lashley, Government Advisor on Poverty Eradication and the Millennium Development Goals.

By Lisa McClean-Trotman

BRIDGETOWN. Barbados, 30 May 2007 – With the timeline for meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) drawing closer, Barbadian teenagers recently had the opportunity to question their government leaders about what was being done to ensure that Barbados reaches the goals – especially MDG 1 on eradicating extreme poverty and hunger.

The occasion was the ‘Yes Minister’ session held by the Office of the Government’s Advisor on Poverty Alleviation and the MDGs, in collaboration with the UNICEF Office for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean and the fourth-form students at Harrison College, a secondary School in Barbados.

More than 100 adolescents from eight schools across the island attended the half-day session, which focused on poverty eradication and education.

“It taught us what the politicians were doing to improve education in Barbados,” said Kirt Goodridge, 15. “And also what measures were being put in place to alleviate poverty, and what role students need to play in this regard.”

Nicole Broomes, also 15, thanked the ministers for taking time to attend. She noted that the session provided an in-depth analysis of the seriousness of poverty, which she hoped would soon be a thing of the past.

Education key to ending poverty

Following a presentation on the MDGs by a UNICEF specialist, the students listened to the views of two government officials – the Hon. Cynthia Forde, acting Minister of Education, Youth Affairs and Sports, and the Hon. Trevour Prescod, Minister of Social Transformation – along with the UNICEF Representative for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Tom Olsen.

Mr. Prescod reminded the students that education is the key in the eradication of poverty. Mr. Olsen added that Barbados has achieved universal primary education but still needs to ensure the quality of schooling and meet the needs of all children – girls and boys, and especially those boys who are more at risk of dropping out.

He also told the students that achieving any of the MDGs would depend on the contribution of every individual member of a community.

Questions and recommendations

Following these presentations, students had the opportunity to question the ministers about government policies on a variety of issues relating to poverty eradication. Topics included:

  • The government’s expenditure on infrastructure development
  • The rising cost of living as a hindrance to poverty eradication
  • Changing criteria for issuing education scholarships.

Students also questioned the government’s stance on the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), which was  implemented in January 2006 and allows for free movement of people, goods and services across the Caribbean. Some were concerned that the CSME would lead to an influx of immigrants and a negative impact on employment for Barbadians.

The students went on to make several recommendations to the ministers, including:

  • Changes in the education curriculum to enable students to benefit from more practical skills
  • Changes in government policies on the standardized examination for 11-year-olds, which many see as a threat to children’s self-esteem
  • More programmes in schools to help children learn money management and parenting skills.

Overall, students said the session was useful in helping them to understand more about the MDGs and what their country must do to achieve them.



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