N Touch
Saturday 21 July 2018
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Letters to the Editor

Saving our children

THE EDITOR: I am in London at the moment and have been discussing with friends the impact of poverty on families/children in the UK.

The Child Poverty Action Group reports that “poverty affects one in four children in the UK today ... poverty isn’t inevitable. With the right policies every child can have the opportunity to do well in life, and we all share the rewards of having a stronger economy and a healthier, fairer society.”

I cannot help but reflect on the challenges facing families/children in TT, including poverty and social exclusion. Promoting family life is everyone’s business. We have to stop the “blame game” that sometimes hinders progress in this area. For example, our educational institutions can do more to develop right relationships with parents/guardians/communities if we are to create effective learning communities.

Before I left TT I was contacted by a reporter for comments on the current review of the 2009 National School Code of Conduct by the Ministry of Education.

While it is necessary to make the code more relevant to today’s reality, implementation will always remain a challenge. Creating principles of action and standards of behaviour on paper is not rocket science. The challenge will be to secure buy-in from all stakeholders and to monitor and evaluate its implementation.

As the document “Teacher codes: learning from experience” by the International Institute for Educational Planning and Unesco states, “...there are challenges to implementing a code: external factors (for instance societal issues and school community/school culture issues), internal factors (for instance one’s beliefs), lack of understanding of jurisdictional context, resources (for instance time, discussion opportunities, learning materials), and internal and external controls... Some believe that a code does not ensure ethical behaviour.”

Will this code influence ethical behaviour among stakeholders in a society in which corruption continues to plague our lives? And what about the relevance of the curriculum?

Some of the external factors include involvement by some students and/or their family members in gangs. Recently, Attorney General Faris Al-Rawi said that surveillance by the new Organised Crime, Narcotic/Anti Gang Unit confirms that there are 211 gangs in TT with 2,459 members. He said:

“Statistically, T&T is wrestling with a gang culture. We’re watching garrison-type behaviour across T&T – people emboldened to go into the streets and resist the police. But it’s gone further – we’re watching schoolchildren behave a particular way, resembling a form of criminality.” But then, the violent behaviour of some students is only a reflection of what they experience in society.

The Guardian reported on March 21 that “Al-Rawi noted acting Police Commissioner Stephen Williams’ 2014 affidavit statement that gang culture had increased in the last 15 years, particularly attracting disenfranchised youth from at-risk areas who lacked a sense of belonging. Williams also said police surveillance confirmed alliances were being worked out among gang factions to facilitate drugs and arms trafficking.”

These are issues that the code must take into consideration since it cannot be reviewed in isolation. And then there is human trafficking and the scandal of child abuse in TT. Children’s Authority chairman Haniff Benjamin is not the only one who is “moved to tears and has sleepless nights over the heinous cases of child abuse being investigated by the agency.”

The Guardian reported in February that Benjamin had stated that since the inception of the Children’s Authority in 2015 there has been more than 55,000 calls for child protection, of which 13,500 required their intervention.

He said that “from last year into this year we have seen some of the most atrocious acts against our children ... We are receiving 20 to 30 calls a day for care and protection.”

The Catholic Commission for Social Justice calls on all people of good will to work to save our families/children.

LEELA RAMDEEN, chair, CCSJ

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