Some of the Territory’s youth weighed in on matters of concern during a Youth Forum that was hosted by the Department of Youth Affairs and Sports, in commemoration of Caribbean Youth Day on Monday, October 7 at the Althea Scatliffe Primary School.
The Department of Youth Affairs and Sports organized the forum to discuss topics related to the 2019 Caribbean Youth Day theme, “Confronting the Social Issues Impacting Education for an Economically Sustainable Region.” The conversation was hosted by Kyla Forbes and Temulji Hughes, the hosts of the youth centre radio programme, ‘Let’s Be Real’.
During the meeting on Monday night, one of the concerns noted by the gathering of young Virgin Islanders was the fact that there are numerous bars around the Territory, but little options for wholesome activities. As such, it was mentioned that drinking continues to be the in thing.
What can best be described as a lively discourse commenced with the hosts throwing out the question of whether or not there is a trend of drinking and smoking permeating the Territory.
Host Hughes asked, “There seems to be a culture of drinking and smoking weed – that seems to be the in-thing these days. Everyone is at a bar consuming alcohol. How many feel like that has become a coping mechanism?”. Co-host Forbes further questioned, “Do we think that’s (smoking and drinking) for leisure or do we think it has become now one of our main coping mechanisms among our young people?”
In response, a young man pointed out that there is a wide variety of bars on the island and little other avenue for fun and relaxation. He said, “As it relates to drug abuse and drinking in Tortola, I think the problem is kind of inevitable because we don’t have any other forms of…activities to do basically.”
He further noted that other sources of relaxation are necessary.
“When you look at somewhere like Long Bush, on Long Bush street alone have at least ten bars. Tortola itself have too much bars, and it don’t have any other activities to do on the weekend but go to a bar, so it’s kind of a problem that cant really be faced unless we find other things to do,” the youth added.
When it was pointed out that the Territory also has a large number of churches and young persons should opt to go to church instead, the young man said, “Same people that go to the bars go to church, right after – the next day.”
He further noted that peer pressure is also a contributor to why young people go to bars and drink.
“Let’s be real, everyone has friends, when you look on a group chat and see that all of your friends are going to a bar, you‘re telling me every time you will chose solitary at home and not go out,” the young man added.
Another young person disagreed with the views of the first commenter. She told the gathering, “I do not agree with your opinion because it is up to us to say that we are going to go to the bar and drink and smoke.”
She further noted that going to the bar is a choice and that there are other things that young persons can do in their spare time besides bar-hopping.
That point was also refuted by another person, who agreed that there is not sufficient recreational activities. However, that young person noted that drinking and smoking is not an appropriate substitute.
Minister for Education and Culture, Dr. the Hon. Natalio Wheatley observed the discussion.