A FEW WEEKS ago, in a radio interview, former MP Fitzgerald Hinds was asked to explain why, as he had said, despite the progress that the PNM had made in his former constituency, and the benefits it had provided for the youth, there was still so much crime in the area. His reply was that he was not a sociologist and would find it difficult to give a reasonable answer.
I am no sociologist myself but an educator of over 35 years of teaching experience and believe that I can offer a reasoned opinion on the problem of the behaviour of the youth in such a depressed area that perhaps might have some bearing on other marginalised communities.
I will focus on education, although I do not think the problem is just education, but since this is the area in which I feel most comfortable I will base my opinion principally on this subject.
For many years governments, when considering education, have been paying much attention to secondary and tertiary education and leaving primary education on the back burner. They boast of the relatively high standard of education in these two areas and spend a great part of the education budget on making sure our secondary and tertiary education institutions are of a very high standard. Though they did not abandon the primary section they, nevertheless, treated it as not as important, except of course for the significance of the SEA.
I have had many years of experience with the Common Entrance, the SEA and also the CSEC examinations so what I am about to say is based on this involvement. Many of the students from these depressed areas perform very poorly in the SEA examinations as they did in the Common Entrance. When I say very poorly I mean that some on them get as little as zero and one or two marks in their English. I speak about English for this is the area in which I have had most experience.
When such students go to secondary schools obviously they are not able to cope with this higher level of work and naturally give problems. Eventually they drop out of school and try to get attention through the display of delinquent behaviour of different types, and find themselves good fodder for gangs.
I am not saying that all weak students will fall into this manner of behaviour, but it is the few who become gang members and resort to various types of crime that cause us grave concern.
The question is what can we do about such problematic young people. My major point for a solution is that we need to focus more on the education of the youth in the primary schools. Weak students need more individual attention. If they are put in the normal primary school class of 30 students and more they will never get ahead, as experience has shown us.
Primary school teachers are so concerned about preparing their students for the important SEA examination that they do not have the time to give the individual attention that these weak students need. Such students should not be in classes of more than 15. Some need classes of less.
Added to this, such pupils need specialised teachers. I am aware that adopting such a plan will mean greater expenditure on these schools, but we are well aware of what youth criminality is costing us not just financially, but also socially and psychologically. That has caused many of us to live in more expensive gated communities and to convert our homes into mini-jails. Many of us are afraid of venturing out after dark, and there are several other associated problems that cause us not to enjoy our life.
The Adult Literacy Tutors Association (ALTA) classes have shown us how individual attention to weak students can result in improvement and great motivation for the weaker ones. From what I have heard from teachers at ALTA, students come to the classes unable to read but are able to leave proud of themselves and very happy.
Often in their speeches politicians talk about the importance of primary education but they do not put their money where their mouth is. My challenge to those in charge of education is to focus on primary education and this will give a much better chance to the young people of these depressed areas. Money spent is such a way will be money well spent.
Much more can be said on this but I think that what I have offered is worth serious consideration.