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Researcher: Lawlessness and school connection


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by SANKA PRICE [email protected] @sanka_nationbb

MOST SECONDARY SCHOOLS in Barbados have produced individuals who become involved in crime, but research shows that many of the criminals attended seven secondary schools in particular.

This was revealed by Sabrina Roach, research officer at the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit (CJRPU), in a post- Brass Tacks Sunday interview at Starcom Network.

“There are issues in all schools – let’s be clear on that. But there are a particular set, let’s say seven, you are guaranteed that when you do your profiles, that persons would have attended these schools,” she said.

She explained that in interviews with convicted felons for CJRPU studies on various topics, “we’re seeing a lot of individuals from the newer secondary schools. Certain schools you would see resurfacing over the profile of prisoners, over the nature of gun violence, over the literacy testing, over the marijuana survey – numerous studies from the department, you see a certain amount of schools”.

Roach said this was also seen in some of their intervention programmes with young children who come to them via the Juvenile Liaison Scheme and the Probation Department.


“You would again see certain schools popping up over and over again within the system,” declared the researcher.

As to what could be responsible for this trend, Roach said a major contributing factor would be how children were allocated to schools based on their performance in the Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination, better known as the Common Entrance or 11Plus exam.

“I don’t want to get into the whole 11-Plus argument, but when you take students who are performing at [a low] academic level, clump them together and try to push them through a system that everyone is going through regardless of academic level, then you’re not catering to the fact that these students are below par, and they may need a specific range of attention. This is despite the other issues such as behaviour, anger management, something as basic as hunger [and] the other family risk factors that led to the issues,” she said.

Roach explained that when 30 children of similar below-par academic performance were in one class, the teacher was often faced with addressing the deficiencies they presented, and was unable to spend adequate time on teaching the subject. And this went on daily from class to class.

“Speaking to some of the teachers and guidance counsellors at these schools,

Continued on Page 4.

Many leaving school without qualifications

some teachers are having difficulty in that they are unable to carry out their syllabus because they spend a lot of the time dealing with behavioural issues within the class setting. So teaching time is minimised and the quality of teaching is downgraded because there are so many behavioural issues.

“And when you look at it, we find that within the newer secondary schools, we’re seeing large numbers of persons leaving school without [academic] qualifications,” said Roach, who had earlier disclosed on the Starcom Network call-in programme that out of 200 convicts involved in a study, 59 per cent or 118 of them had not completed their secondary school education.

The researcher said some students from these schools often sought to do vocational training, but as many could not properly read or write, they could not pursue those skilled-based courses as some still had an academic section.

“The reality is that a lot of these young persons are ashamed of the fact that they are academically not at a certain level – and I’m talking about basics of reading and writing – and when they are presented with this deficiency, it tends to manifest in shame, violence and aggressiveness,” Roach said.

CJRPU director Cheryl Willoughby said the unit had been working through the guidance counsellors at secondary schools on intervention strategies. This involved identifying problematic children early and, along with other agencies, seeking to assist them.

“Going forward . . . we will be actually identifying those ministries, those departments that have an interest in the research findings. We’re going to work with them now on a closer basis so that we can . . . develop strategies to address some of the issues we are seeing coming out of our research,” said the criminologist.



From Page 1.

Youth ashamed

OWNING A GUN is a new fashion trend in Barbados. At least that’s what most young convicted criminals who participated in a study on the nature of gun violence think.

In explaining why there was a high demand for guns, 146 of 200 inmates in the study said it was “a fashion trend and culture”.

“A lot of the inmates called it the in thing,” said Sabrina Roach, research officer with the Criminal Justice Research and Planning Unit.

The other major reasons given for the need to own a gun were for protection and self-defence.

“Protection was separated from self-defence in that [a gun] was not only needed to defend yourself because you are engaged in criminal activity, but you are a target if you do not have a firearm if you are associated with certain individuals, or live in certain communities,” said Roach on Starcom Network’s Brass Tacks Sunday call-in programme.

These inmates, who would have been convicted of firearm-related offences, said the average price for a gun was $600, but one could cost as much as $25 000. They also indicated they would have saved to buy a gun and supplemented that with money from illegal activities.

As far as where the ammunition came from, the prisoners were not forthcoming, but confessed to practising to shoot primarily in the gullies around the island. Some said they did such “training” in other Caribbean islands.

In the study – which sought to analyse the nature of gun violence between 2010 and 2017 in order to provide insight into the motivations of the perpetrators and the type of offences being committed – it was found that robbery was the consistent top offence for the period, accounting for 37 per cent of all firearm-enabled crimes. Over the period, 1 836 people were arrested and charged with gun-related offences.

15 years

The key concerns arising from the study were that a majority of the inmates had not completed secondary school. That is, of the 200 convicts (199 males and one female), the average age of leaving school was 15 years old.

Fifty-four of them did not complete school because they were expelled, 52 left of their own volition, while several others were asked to leave as they had reached 16 and had not attained the academic level required (being, for instance, in second or third form at that age).



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