Using the Youth Advocacy Toolkit to inspire young people in Tobago

Working in the classroom presents challenges but it also presents a world of opportunity to inspire young minds.

A World at School representatives visited Tobago in March and had the privilege of engaging in healthy discussion and activities to motivate children to be #UpForSchool. The students in this country are very privileged to have a solid educational structure, with free education from kindergarten through undergraduate school.

There are also support systems in terms of transportation, nutrition, textbooks and laptop distribution. However, many students still struggle to find their purpose for being in school and the willingness to excel.

During the visit, A World at School encouraged the students to join in advocacy for global education. We also challenged the student to look at their problems and change them into an opportunity by using the problem-to-opportunity machine model from the Youth Advocacy Toolkit. Our purpose is to motivate and inspire persons to the call for advocacy on education issues.

We interacted with over 100 people, from students at Speyside High School and NGO outreach to JCI Tobago and The Y-Zone Calderhall. A World at School representatives also conducted an interview at the local TV station, Tobago Channel, which has a large viewership on the island.

Therefore, we were able to reach many persons within the island of approximately 55,000 people. This visit was a start to the dialogue and the resident Global Youth Ambassador will continue to influence and impact persons on the island as we stand up for education.

One of the highlights of the weeklong workshops using the Youth Advocacy Toolkit was the chance to talk to young people about their aspirations for the future. Youth employment is a big problem on the island, with many young people opting out of getting a free undergraduate education so that they can immediately join the workforce.

However, many people join the workforce prematurely, entering with fewer skills than they could have gained if they had remained in school. Many enter the workforce early with the hopes that, regardless of what difficulties they may have to face, they will be backed up by their parents and the inheritances of land and properties that have been promised to them.

The result, as many confessed, is a generation of students who were somewhat uninspired by their own potential. This theme became the centerpiece of our discussions and we explored ways that young people now can begin to advocate for policies that favour youth employment in their local communities.

We did this, first and foremost, by exploring the “Understand It” portion of the Youth Advocacy Toolkit. There, we used the PEST (Political, Economist, Social, Technological) model of analysis, reviewed different ways to conduct research on the obstacles to youth employment on the island (i.e. interviews, surveys, meetings, holding workshops, etc.), and identified relevant stakeholders who could help them along their way (i.e., family members, teachers, local parliament members, etc.).

At the end, we conducted several feedback Q&As about the results and meaningfulness of our meetings and received positive responses from students. There were two basic takeaways from our workshops: the real value of utilising the Youth Advocacy Toolkit to engage in issues that make young people mad in order to do something about them, and the vast potential that the voices of the youth have to make a difference in the world despite the many obstacles that they must face. In the end, more students than before were truly #UpForSchool.

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