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EDITORIAL: Creative thinking will keep youth from crime


Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: Creative thinking will keep youth from crime

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BY NOW it must be becoming increasingly clear to many Barbadians that the national debate sparked by the recent spike in gun-related violence and the comments of Acting Commissioner of Police Tyrone Griffith on the subject is not about to go away.

It is quite possible that the stepped up enforcement by the Royal Barbados Police Force and the increased sensitivity of the public to the issue of fear created by these kinds of acts, might be followed by a lull in the activities of this criminal element, but without doubt if the root causes are not addressed, this chapter in our country’s life will be repeated.

Under the circumstances, we invite our decision-makers to resist what appears these days to be a natural urge to dismiss any suggestions that do not come from within their circle. Over the past week Barbadians from every walk of life have been having their say and it would be in the best interest of the country if those who have the capacity to make or influence change paid attention.

It certainly ought not to have missed the members of the Cabinet, for example, and the wider Democratic Labour Party Government, that there is a frightening level of despondency among a large number of our youth – men and women. We may argue about the cause, but the stark reality is that the absence of job opportunities is fuelling a lot of the anger of too many of our youth.

Yes, the lack of a job cannot justify picking up a gun and robbing some hard-working homeowner in the dead of the night, or holding up a credit union office while innocent customers are transacting business. But inasmuch as the very youth involved in criminal activity refer to this vexing issue, it suggests we need to treat the lack of jobs as an urgent and critical matter.

We also hold the view that those who administer our education and social support systems are displaying a fearful lack of creativity in responding to the challenges while they grapple with the headache of limited funds with which to execute programmes. Our children don’t wake up one morning and determine they are going to shoot and rob. That generally occurs when they have travelled some distance along a path of less threatening forms of anti-social behaviour.

Yet, we continue to push so many of our young men and women in this direction by our lack of creativity. Each year our secondary schools graduate about 4 000 students into an environment where tertiary level places are in the hundreds and available jobs even fewer.

Again we ask: Why have we not been able to come up with programmes to divert a substantial number of these young people away from idleness? After all, in this country we have some of the region’s best education plants that largely go idle between 4 p.m. and the next day of school every day.

The campuses of the Barbados Community College (BCC) and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic (SJPP) are bursting at the seams, but in many instances the students are taught in largely sterile classrooms. In other words, much of the teaching that takes place at the BCC and SJPP could take place at any secondary school campus without any disadvantage to the students.

So why do we sentence so many of our school-leavers to state-induced idleness when with a little thought, we could be offering them solid tertiary and/or vocational instruction post-secondary school? The devil does find work for idle hands and when a gun is included, that work can have deadly consequences. It’s time for our decision-makers to substitute their sterile thinking and stubborn objection to entertaining the ideas of others with creativity, and just maybe the police won’t have to look for so many guns – or gun-toting youth.

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