The principles of democracy and the value of civic education are being further inculcated into young people in Seychelles now that members of the island nation’s youth assembly are elected instead of being chosen.
A new cohort of the Seychelles National Youth Assembly (SNYA) took their oath of allegiance recently, following campaigns and elections in all state, private secondary schools, and post-secondary institutions of the three main islands.
This year’s process - a first for the archipelago in the western Indian Ocean - also saw the election of the speaker, deputy speaker, clerk, and deputy clerk when the group assumed office last month.
Said Lesperance, aged 14 from Praslin Secondary School, is the Speaker of the 18th SNYA and also the youngest speaker in the history of the institution.
The youth assembly is an educational forum that aims at providing young people with leadership potential, nurture and enhance their abilities to research, compile and present fact-based arguments on issues which impact the lives and developments of youth of Seychelles.
When addressing the new cohort of the youth assembly, the new chief executive of the Seychelles National Youth Council (SNYC), Albert Duncan, said that young people are considered the heart and body of Seychelles and cannot be ignored or sidelined in key decision-making processes.
“With the first elected Youth Assembly, we make a commitment that your voice will be heard in all matters concerning youth,” said Duncan, stressing that “only through meaningful involvement and participation can young people exercise their full citizenship. And only through meaningful dialogue across generations can we all contribute to finding solutions to the challenges we face.”
The chief executive added: “Even at this age, do not ever underestimate your capability to make a difference as you have the ability to make positive contributions towards your schools including at the national level. You have taken a big step to come forward, we are very proud of you and your responsibility will be to make heard the voice of the youth.”
The SNYA election was a collaboration between the SNYC, the Ministry of Education, the British High Commission, the Electoral Commission and the Youth and Sports Department of the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Family.
The electoral process started in February, with the campaigning and election process which ended with the swear-in ceremony of the assembly members in April. During that time, officers involved with the process as well as students were given training relating to the election processes, the timeline and procedures leading towards the election, nomination day, campaigning, and cooling off period.
In addition to support from electoral officers, local observers from a non-profit organisation - Association for Rights, Information and Democracy (Arid) – followed the process.
The Minister for Youth, Sports, and Family, Marie Celine Zialor, told SNA on Tuesday that aside from reinforcing the importance of democracy the new process is in line with changes that the new government wants to bring in terms of meritocracy and working hard for something that one wants instead of same being handed over to them.
“What better way to start if not with our young people? If you want to earn something, work for it, and during the process young people get to develop and gain attributes such as responsibility and working hard. This will also develop and assist them in the long run to develop the right leadership attributes and qualities,” said Zialor.
The minister added that the process had gone well and hoped the change that has been taken with the youth assembly would lead to people, especially the younger ones, to get another perspective of democracy.
On his part, the principal secretary for youth and sports, Ralph Jean-Louis, stressed the importance of civic education to better equip and empower citizens to participate in democratic processes.
“At a very young age they will be engaged in a democratic election process for the Seychelles National Youth Assembly, which is an educational platform from which the youth of this country between the age of 14-17 years old will have a voice through their elected representatives,” said Jean-Louis.
Begitta Jeannevol, a former member of the parliament, shares her views on the whole process, which was fully funded by the British High Commission in Seychelles.
“I agreed to the proposal as being a former youth assembly myself from the 2nd cohort I was chosen and not elected. I recall the complaints though we tried to explain that the youth assembly is an educational program and not a political one. Thus, doing it democratically at the school level does a bit of that, the students are not politically motivated yet,” she said.
Jeannevol added: “Secondly being a former member of parliament who then went through the election process at a very young age myself, to me it was kind of exciting to see the very young ones going through that. Though they are not real political elections. But they had to campaign. They also had posters and held talks so as to convince others to vote for them. “
Jeannevol commended the British High Commission, which supported the process from the concept stage to its completion, and funded training and capacity building.
“Also, the process was above my expectations. I admit that I was a bit in doubt that the students would be scared to go into elections being too young; they were not ready for it, I thought but on the contrary, both girls and boys went through the process head on,” she added.
With this cohort, the Seychelles National Youth Assembly resumed its work after a two-year interruption due to COVID-19. Elected on a one-year mandate, the members will start meeting this month. They have seven sittings during their mandate and will meet at six-week intervals.
Source: Seychelles News Agency