THE EDITOR: Our Minister of National Security wants citizens to help with his New Year wish, which is, to “shut down or perhaps eliminate the factory that continues to produce the criminal minds that plague our society.”
Here are some ways in which he can begin:
1. Work with the Ministry of Education to weed out those teachers who do things like grab nine year olds by the neck, at the front of their shirts, lift them and semi-drag them into their seats. Those teachers who denigrate students who do not come from, what they consider the “right side of the track.” There are still teachers in our schools who do nothing to build self-esteem and achieve motivation. Others destroy self-esteem.
2. Work with the Ministry of Education to find out what causes parents whose teenage children are at the learning enhancement centres, (supposedly set up to prevent those “factories” from operating), to seek out psychologists to assist their children to become motivated to learn.
3. Work with the Ministry of Education to eliminate the very long waiting period for students who are exhibiting anti-social behaviours, to have the recommended psycho-educational or psychological assessment. After the letter is delivered, it is reported, that there is a waiting period of about six months to one year, before this can be done. Many principals do not want the students back in school until that assessment is done, and recommendations made. Many of these students are out of school for long periods of time, and eventually become employed by the “factories.”
4. Do the research to find out what causes a 13- to 17-year-olds to be involved in criminal activity on a school day, to the point of being shot to death by the police. Who in this system is charged with the responsibility of doing the home visits of students who are absent from school, without a reason given by parents, doing an assessment of students’ living conditions, checking school records from primary school and working with the Student Support Services to carry through with the follow-up recommendations? I am not sure if the Research Department of the Ministry of National Security still operates.
5. To have your New Year Wish come true, please understand that school fights are not part of normal school life, but when it happens there will be a teacher to stop the fight and sit with the parties in conflict, and work out ways to communicate, without making any one feel that he/she needs to be eliminated, or made to feel that he does not deserve to grow into a mentally healthy, productive, happy adult.
6. Know, too, that our children must learn that empathy is one human characteristic which encourages positive communication, and helps us to understand that we are all in this life together. Our children must learn about each other and, as an exercise, learn what it feels like to walk in another child’s shoes. Children must learn what a culture of peace brings to our environment. Faith, hope and charity will be the foundation of that environment and our children will grow up to be mentally healthy, caring, productive and happy citizens, and your wish will begin to become real.
7. Advocate for a national parenting programme, in which there are professionals assisting parents, those who are not yet parents and grandparents to learn 21st century approaches to creating happy, peaceful and caring children. We know that happy, peaceful and caring children grow into peaceful adults and will never seek employment that will hurt others. The Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists (TTAP), an organisation made up of very caring, concerned and professionally-trained citizens, continues to offer its services. We can definitely help to make your wish come true. There is no magic wand, it will be hard work. We are also good at negotiating.
8. Work with the Ministry of Education to return the Special Education Teachers to the classrooms in our schools, or set up a space on the compound of schools manned with special education teachers, educational psychologists, counselling psychologists and clinical psychologists so that the students can get the help that they deserve. They will learn that they can change their present circumstances for the better.
Anna Maria Mora, Counselling Psychologist
Past President, TTAP