THE EDITOR: There is need to unify the various proposals to curb school violence and gang proliferation in TT. Firstly, the Minister of Youth Development and National Service has come up with the idea of an agriculture programme that caters to just 300 youths when there are thousands idle. The kicker is most of them are not interested in planting the land.
Secondly, Minister of Trade and Investment Paula Gopee-Scoon has concocted a Manufacturing Apprenticeship Programme (MAP) for youths who have attained a certain level of certification. Again, thousands of youths do not have CSEC passes to assess this programme. Thousands of youths are left out in the cold.
I see even Minister in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development Adrian Leonce has thrown his hat into the ring to assist at-risk youths. Another hodge-podge idea. The Minister of Education has thrown her arms in the air regarding the metastasising of indiscipline and violence in schools.
The Education Ministry needs to take a firm decision as soon as SEA results are released. Research has shown that 2,500 students literally fail SEA every year. These students score less than 30 per cent in the exam. They are challenged by reading skills, writing skills and simple reasoning. To send them to secondary school is a travesty of justice.
I propose that all ministers come together and establish a national apprenticeship programme. The emphasis would be on hands-on work, about 97 per cent, and only about three per cent would be simple theory based on their choice of career.
We begin first by compiling a national registry of all master craftsmen and women. In this programme apprentices will be given a fortnightly stipend and master craftsmen/women will be paid. The funding will come from the $2 billion savings from the partial removal of the fuel subsidy – a $1 price increase. The programme will run for, say, a five to eight-year period. Germany and Japan both have successful vocational programmes.
For males from 11 to 25 years the following skills ought to be taught under the supervision of master craftsmen: masonry, carpentry, fabricating, auto air conditioning, residential air conditioning, hands-on auto mechanics, hybrid car skills, fully electric car diagnostics, tailoring, plumbing, small engine repair, landscaping, culinary arts, cobbling (repairing shoes), full auto detailing (windshield replacement) and jewellery craft.
The females from 11 to 25 years will be trained to become: nail technicians, make-up artists, hair stylists, massage therapists, seamstresses and some unisex skills from the males’ curriculum. This apprenticeship programme will have many serendipitous benefits. It would reduce the lure or enticement of the gang culture, reduce the workload of the Children’s Authority for wayward youths and create youth entrepreneurs. It is not a hustle like youth rushing to clean windshields at traffic lights or selling bottled water on the dangerous highways.
So the Government funds the programme by paying both apprentices and trainers. It provides coveralls for all apprentices and even free public transport to and from places of work. Once a week apprentices can visit vocational centres at El Dorado, Chatham, Debe for simple theory skills related to their chosen career. This programme can begin as early as this year. Once the young people make less than 30 per cent in the SEA, they are automatically assigned to the apprenticeship programme.
All of the pent-up frustration, confusion, inadequacies will go away. They will be earning money as early as 11 years and there will be no time for aggression as is now prevalent. The students are saying: We do not want to be in a classroom setting for the whole day. We want to use our hands for productive work. We are hands-on learners.
So come on ministers, make our youths entrepreneurs and not hustlers on the streets.