Youth forum opens as education ministers gather for their triennial conference in Mauritius Student leaders representing 30 Commonwealth countries yesterday gathered at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute in Mauritius for the opening of a four-day Youth Forum, which runs in parallel to the 18th Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers.
Over 100 young people will explore the theme ‘Be the Change’ and their deliberations will be presented to ministers on Thursday.
In her welcoming remarks, Deputy Secretary-General Mmasekgoa Masire-Mwamba said that the Youth Forum has become an integral part of the education ministers’ conference and she commended the interest and involvement of Commonwealth students.
“The Commonwealth gives a voice to its young people: When heads of government meet every two years, Commonwealth youth leaders meet alongside them. When education ministers meet, student leaders of the Commonwealth also meet. Their discussions and outcomes feed directly into the main conferences.”
Satyaprakash Ritoo, Minister of Youth and Sports, Mauritius, delivered the keynote speech and stressed the important role of education institutions in shaping societies: “The developmental capacities of any nation depends majorly on the kind of knowledge and values that it has imparted to its youth because a responsive, creative and confident youth is recognised as a catalyser for economic prosperity, social uplifting and civic engagement.” Addressing the students, he said: “The theme of the Forum ‘Be the Change’ befits the aspirations of any country which relies on its youth to showcase their creativity and skills and get involved in the designing and making of public policies.”
Rebecca Solomon, Deputy Chair of the Pan-Commonwealth Youth Caucus called on her fellow youth leaders to pursue their vision: “It is better to be aware of our special journey and follow it than to be followers of other people. Without our own visions we may be tempted to retreat to the crowd and to whatever it takes to maintain refuge there. Let us pursue our vision in order to achieve an identity of our own. We can know and enjoy the glory of working our own road.
“We are here today not because we choose to come but rather it is an opportunity given to each one of us to help to improve the world we are living in. In other words make the changes to make it a better place,” she said.
Later, the students met with education and youth ministers from Barbados, Mauritius Nauru, and Sierra Leone for an open dialogue on education issues and concerns. These included questions about inclusive education for students with disabilities, financial support for tertiary education, and student engagement in policy-making and curriculum development. Concluding, Ronald Jones Minister of Education and Human Resource Development for Barbados said: “We want the young people of the Commonwealth to lend your voices to alleviation of the many issues of the world and we hope the elders listen to you.”