Submitted by DAVID COMISSIONG, Citizen of Barbados
Barbados owes a great debt of gratitude to Ms Cheryl Willoughby, Director of the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit (CJRPU), Ms Sabrina Roach, Research Officer at the CJRPU, and to Mr Sanka Price, Nation Newspaper reporter, for so clearly outlining the fundamental causes of our country’s crime problem in two articles published in the Nation Newspaper of Tuesday 26th February 2019!
The critical points made in the articles are as follows:-
- National crime statistics reveal that a majority of criminal law offenders are alumni of a group of some seven (7) newer secondary schools – schools that are allocated the lowest achieving academic performers in the Common Entrance examination.
- Many low academic achievers are lumped together in these schools, but are not given any assistance or resources over and above those that are given to more academically gifted students, and are subjected to the same academic programme and pace as their more academically gifted peers.
- Many of the low academic achievers who are lumped together have additional issues pertaining to behavioural problems, poor anger management capacity, and poverty, hunger and other “family risk factors” in the home environment, but are not given any special assistance to address these issues.
- Classes at these newer secondary schools typically contain 30 academically challenged students and are so problematical that the teacher is often faced with addressing the myriad of deficiencies the students are afflicted with and is therefore unable to spend adequate time on teaching his or her subject.
- Some of the outcomes of this state of affairs are as follows:-
a) Many of these students never even complete their secondary education – some are expelled; some leave of their own volition; and others are asked by the school authorities to leave when they reach 16 years of age, even though they might not yet have even entered the 5th
b) A great majority of those who manage to make it to 5th form and to graduate leave school without any academic qualifications.
c) Many of these students leave school without having acquired basic skills of reading and writing, thereby making it difficult for them to pursue post-secondary school skills-based vocational training.
6) One consequence of these students’ failure to achieve basic levels of literacy and numeracy is feelings of shame and related manifestations of violent and aggressive behaviour.
7) A national study of 200 criminal offenders has revealed as follows:-
a) 59 percent of them had not completed their secondary education;
b) 54 out of the 200 had been expelled from school; 52 left of their own volition; and several others were asked to leave once they reached 16 years of age.
8) Many of the young criminal offenders that this dysfunctional education system produces are imbued with the following ideas and values:-
a) Owning a gun – an illegal one at that – is now considered to be the “in thing” – a prized component of “a fashion trend and culture”.
b) For some, however, owning a gun is also an indispensable instrument of “protection” and/or “self-defence”, since they are engaged in criminal activity or are otherwise a target of violence because of their association with particular individuals or because they live in certain communities.
Surely, the foregoing must, and will be, treated as a “wake up call” by our Government in general, and by our Ministry of Education in particular !
On at least two occasions in the recent past, I have produced newspaper articles which admonished our authorities to recognize that the sad reality is that too many of our children and adolescents are not being sufficiently nurtured, cared for, and prepared for life in our Barbadian schools.
I also recommended that we establish a programme to examine all of our schools, with a view to determining where we need smaller classes, more individual attention for students, a greater teacher to student ratio, remedial education teachers, an expanded curriculum, more technical, vocational and artistic training and certification, the assistance of psychologists and/or guidance counsellors, organized interventions in the deficient home environments of “at risk” students, and the list goes on.
And since we will be doing so against a background of our Government being cash-strapped and hard pressed to find additional resources to put into our schools, we should then enlist the assistance of all relevant civil society organizations – our Parent/Teacher Associations, Old Scholar Associations, service clubs (the many chapters of the Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, and Optimist clubs), philanthropic organizations, private sector businesses, trade unions, churches, relevant professional organizations, the Barbados Association of Retired Persons, retired educators, Barbadian diaspora organizations – to act urgently on the results of such an examination and to give the necessary assistance to our schools.
Surely we can imagine an Emergency Programme in which Boards of Management of schools and their new supportive partners construct new classrooms utilizing inexpensive plywood material in order to accommodate smaller classes, and bringing on board retired teachers who are prepared to donate perhaps a couple of half days a week to teaching struggling students, and such like remedial or rescue measures.
Let us also determine how we can so restructure the content of our educational programme that we do a much better job of instilling in our students an acceptance and appreciation of themselves as sacred beings; a deep respect and regard for humanity/other human beings; a sense of personal responsibility; and a notion of duty to family, community, nation, humanity.
And since we have already acknowledged that our Government is currently in a condition in which it will find it difficult to come up with additional financial resources, I would like to propose that all Barbadian citizens who are in a financial position that enables them to make charitable donations should not only be encouraged to do so, but should be further encouraged to adopt a Barbadian school as their charity of choice!
Indeed, I would wish to urge our local banks and credit unions and our Ministry of Education to collaborate on putting a mechanism in place that makes such philanthropic giving easy and convenient. The mechanism I have in mind is a system in which individual schools are permitted to open accounts at the various banks and credit unions, and citizens who are the holders of accounts at the said banks and credit unions are provided with forms which they can sign authorizing their bank or credit union to make automatic monthly deductions from the citizen’s account and pay it into the school’s account.
I envisage citizens who can afford it giving a standard monthly donation that they can accommodate without any undue distress.
If we all put our hands to the plough I am certain that we can intervene decisively in this growing problem of criminal delinquency and transform Barbados into the wholesome, inclusive, nurturing and humane society that it deserves to be.