By Richard Lord – March 23, 2013
Government is being warned to do “whatever is necessary” to silence the guns in the hands of the criminal element in Laventille. If those carrying the guns are allowed to run rampant, they could eventually train those guns on the capital city itself.
This was one of the recommendations of the Cabinet-appointed Youth At Risk Committee, which was chaired by Dr Selwyn Ryan, professor emeritus of political science at the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine campus.
Other members of the committee were lecturer in international relations, Department of Behavioural Sciences Dr Indira Rampersad; professor of gender and cultural Studies Patricia Mohammed; former dean of the arts and general studies at UWI Dr Marjorie Thorpe; and Independent Senator Dr Lennox Bernard.
The report has also recommended the establishment of a national service scheme “in the shortest possible time.” It said the service should consist of “compulsory community-based project/service learning for secondary school students (for a minimum of 40 contact hours).”
The 436-page report, titled: No Time to Quit: Engaging Youth At Risk, was laid in the House of Representatives by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday. She said the report recommended the use of sport to deal with the problem of crime.
Persad-Bissessar said her Government fully endorsed recommendations for an investment in sport as a deterrent to juvenile crime, and this was proven by the immense success of the Hoop for Life community basketball tournament for teams in depressed communities across the country.
Dealing with crime, the report said: “Greater Laventille has made a distinctive contribution to the national culture and must be rehabilitated and helped to rise again.”
The report also listed another “compelling” reason to resuscitate East Port-of-Spain, which the Ryan Committee said it has to do with the “strategic location” of the community.
“Laventille, one is warned, is like the ‘dagger’ pointed at the ‘soft underbelly’ of the capital city, and it would be irresponsible and negligent for those responsible for strategic planning to ignore the possibility that Laventille could in time be the weak link in the urban chain,” the committee wrote.
“One thus (therefore) has to do whatever is necessary to ‘silence the guns’ of Dorata Street, Laventille, Beverly Hills and John John amongst others,” the report recommended.
The report indicated that the young African males in urban hot spots such as Laventille were more at risk of being directly caught in the criminal world of drugs, guns and deadly violent crime if something was not done immediately to stem the problem.
Nevertheless, according to the document: “The problem is that Laventille and its diaspora is now more a matter of class than one of race.”
It said the National Security Minister must also go after the “big ones” who imported guns and illicit drugs into Laventille.
And the report also recommended changes to the Teaching Service Commission, saying it should be restructured and renamed the Educational Service Commission.
The report said this ESC should be responsible for recruiting, selecting and reviewing personnel at higher levels of the education service—principals and vice principals—and should be relieved of interviewing, which could be done by the Education Ministry.
The report also recommended new attention should be given to raising the quality of the teaching profession, which must become a national policy.
• All teachers should be certified and licensed by a regulatory body of teachers and other educational specialists called the National Council for Professional Standards in Teaching (NCPST).
• The NCPST licence should be awarded for two periods of five years each with an initial application after a year of internship.
• Teachers should be able to renew their licences for a second five-year period, after which they would become tenured.
• The Youth Training Centre in Arouca “should not be staffed by prison officers but individuals specially trained in youth development and sensitive to the objectives of the YTC.”
• A card calling system should be instituted at correctional institutions to reduce the illegal use of mobile phones.
• Drug treatment courts should be established in the shortest possible time.
• Industrial law should allow parents to visit the child’s school to consult with the teacher for one or two hours a month.
• National Parent/Teacher Association should re-examine its role in education of children and give credence to its efficacy and advocacy based on strong pedagogical principles.