National Student Congress Inspires Pledge for Action

Basseterre, St. Kitts  (SKNIS): Student leaders from secondary schools and tertiary institutions across St. Kitts and Nevis and Federal government officials walked away from the inaugural National Student Conference with great satisfaction and the will to act after meaningful sessions, on February 29, 2024, at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort.

Dr Edwin Powell, Special Advisor in the Ministry of National Security, Attorney General, the Honourable Garth Wilkin, and Minister of State responsible for Youth Empowerment, the Honourable Isalean Phillip, engaged the young people on crime and violence within society and welcomed suggestions on reducing such from their perspective.

Recommendations included implementing harsher penalties for adults who fail to address red flags in children, increased intelligence support from the Regional Security System (RSS), implementing reforms to raise policing standards, expanding mental health support services, and introducing penalties for persons who incite antisocial actions.


Attorney General Hon. Garth Wilkin taking notes from students during the National Student Congress

Attorney General Wilkin commended the ministry for hosting the inaugural congress and said that some of the suggestions made by the young people related to enhancing safety aspects within schools will be implemented right away, while others may take a bit longer.

“I also like the fact that they spoke about anti-bullying,” he said. “One of the things we were considering doing from the AGO (Attorney General’s Office) is to bring a specific anti-bullying legislation, so now that I hear the kids are calling for it, it will give us the impetus to move forward with that type of legislation.”

Minister Phillip said that she was pleased with the two days of interactive and productive engagements at the congress, which began with primary school student leaders on February 28, 2024.

“At this congress, I believe these students were a lot more open. They had a bit more comfort level in terms of expressing the things that they see and feel,” Honourable Phillip said. “They raised issues that are very sensitive that we don’t talk about like sexual harassment, abuse – especially in terms of parent to child type of violence. These are very real things that are happening in our societies, and young people know that it is happening, and they are calling it out.”

Hon. Isalean Phillip

She added that the non-judgemental safe space created at the congress is reflective of the type of support that is offered by the Ministry of Youth Empowerment as they seek open and honest engagements.

The National Student Congress forms part of the government’s strategy to address Crime and Violence as a Public Health Matter. Minister of State Phillip said that the broad-based strategy includes preventative initiatives such as the two-day congress.

“As we tackle the problem of violence as a public health issue, we want to be able to meet it at its root …,” Honourable Phillip expressed. “This is not just a St. Kitts and Nevis issue, this is a regional issue, this is a regional approach, and so when we get our young people involved from the very youngest in primary school, up to our advanced education institutions, part of it is to be able to instil in us the anti-violence, anti-crime sentiment and not only as a consciousness but also how we can take action against it.”

That consciousness to act was expressed by many of the students who vowed to take the lessons learnt back to their student councils and work with teachers to implement initiatives to promote positivity within their respective schools and reduce antisocial behaviour.

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