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Language classes for the ‘blocks’

Foreign language classes are headed to ‘blocks’ Barbados, says Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment, Adrian Forde.

While Prime Minister Mia Mottley is pressing for bilingual school children, language classes will be among those on offer as Forde’s ministry starts the second phase of its “Building Blocks” programme in January.

“We are introducing on every single block, a foreign language, because we believe that our young people must be able to communicate. As tourism is one of our major industries, we believe that they should be able to communicate with persons from outside of Barbados as well,” Forde said in an interview with Barbados TODAY.

The classes are among a raft of academic and vocational training programmes to be offered at community centres in a bid to steer youth away from crime and into gainful employment, said Forde.

Courses in soft economics, accounting, cell phone repairs, farming and community beautification are mere weeks away from implementation, the youth Minister said.

He said the plan is consistent with Government’s commitment to transform places, which are often negatively labelled, into safe spaces for young people to thrive.

“We realize that the safe spaces for those persons, are the blocks and using a soft approach rather than using the muscles of a police force or a defense force . . . and bulldoze those blocks, we recognize that young people feel a sense of entitlement for those safe spaces and they will rebuild. As you have seen in almost every community. Every time the police destroys a so-called ‘block’, in a matter of weeks they are back up and they are doing much the same.

“So, what we’re saying is that we will change the mindset of the ‘block’ and make them ideal business centres,” he said. 

In the first phase, which has been completed, ministry officials and other interest groups were mapping and collecting data about some of the challenges faced by the young men and women who frequent the country’s blocks, and determine what their interests are, said Forde.

“There are a lot of persons on the block, who want to be involved in art and craft and we are saying that we are going to put the physical constructs in place for that business,” the Minister for youth and communities told Barbados TODAY.

“There are persons on the block who may want to be barbers, and we are going to make sure they have their barber (salon) right there on the block. If they are those who want to sell fruits and vegetables, there is going to be a space and a stall allocated for those persons.”

In addition, he declared that women will be catered for as well, “because we are not misogynists at the ministry . . . and we know that women frequent the blocks as well.”

With gun crime still pervading some districts, Forde also encouraged young people to take hold of their communities in a more positive way.

“When I speak to the young people in this country, my message is crystal clear. Stop the violence. Barbados can ill afford to be spending money as it relates to healthcare and our healthcare bill, because when a bullet leaves a gun, it doesn’t identify a victim. It can harm anybody, so it’s everyone’s problem . . . . We must put our hands to the plough in order to wrestle this problem . . . and I’m saying that the Building Blocks programme is just one way.

“Whatever these young people want to do, we are saying we are going to allow them, for the first time in their lives to put down the guns, the knives and the weapons of destruction and take up the tools of empowerment. Take up the tools to empower themselves so that they can make their own dollar and support themselves and their families, so that there will be an additional pool of disposable income,” he said. 

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