By Orville Williams
The government’s Youth Education and Empowerment Programme (YEEP) is set to receive a major upgrade next year, when it is relocated to a refurbished facility on the premises of the old Ottos School.
The programme, managed by the Ministry of Social Transformation, is meant to provide young people who would have failed to complete their secondary education with a ‘second chance’ to kickstart their development at that level and move on to improve their lives.
These types of programmes are very popular across many Caribbean countries, due to prevailing issues like truancy, teenage pregnancy and violence caused by poverty and other disruptive challenges.
There are often arguments about how successful these programmes are and whether that success is determined by the level of investment, but the Government of Antigua and Barbuda is now making its approach clear.
Information Minister Melford Nicholas told this week’s post-Cabinet media briefing that the programme was this week “lauded for the wonderful work that it has done”, particularly in “producing sterling [CXC examination] results for the fifth consecutive year”, and would receive a much-needed upgrade in return.
“In recognition of that, the government took the decision that they have outgrown the facilities that they had started in – the youth center, close to the Prime Minister’s Office – and accordingly … early next year, we will move to rehabilitate the facilities at the former Ottos Primary School.
“That facility is going to be presumably demolished and a new facility built to accommodate this programme. [It will] be equipped with all of the necessities that these persons would need; that would include crèches and nurseries for persons with young children.”
The upgrades won’t stop there either, Nicholas said, as the growing UWI Five Islands campus will be tapped to offer an importance path for participants of the programme to take their academic competence a step further.
“One of the expectations that we had of this programme as well, given the coming expansion of the University of the West Indies Five Islands campus, it [provides] an opportunity for some of these persons who are willing to be able to move towards matriculation to attend university as well.
“We want to continue the whole stream of opportunities that persons have for continual and higher education.”
The Public Works Department is set to execute the refurbishing of the new site and according to the government, the YEEP “will firmly remain under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Transformation as one of the government’s flagship social and empowerment programmes”.