I first met Derek Walcott, who died on March 20, in the late 1960s when we both worked as reporters at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Evening News in my native Trinidad.
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Students rehabilitation, a step in right direction
My heart warmed in response to the announcement by the Minister of Education, that the 24 students removed from the Chaguanas North Secondary School were to start a rehabilitation programme from yesterday. However, there are some concerns with this initiative.
The idea is welcome and sorely needed but I wonder how well this programme was thought out before its introduction or is it another hastily concocted scheme in response to the hype of the situation.
Firstly, has this programme existed before within the Ministry and why was it the best kept secret in the country when so many previous cases warranted a similar response? Several students in the past have demonstrated serious misconduct at our schools, and have only received suspensions or in some cases their incidents were swept under the carpet, while others were left to their own demise or become school drop outs, when they could have benefitted from rehabilitation.
One wonders also about the conditions of the facility selected for this purpose. From the report it is suggested that this building was left vacant following the removal of the Couva West Secondary School.
What renovations were made to accommodate such a programme? Is the environment conducive to therapeutic activity or are we moving these students into another “school” setting where the emphasis will be on remedial classes? Are there counselling rooms and spaces to explore artistic expressions or sports?
What about security arrangements? Are we going to have armed guards at the gate to police these students since they are prone to disruptive behaviour? A therapeutic environment must be created in order for such a programme to succeed. Are a few rooms in the vacated Couva West Secondary School ideal for this?
Also what about the staffing of this facility? It is reported that staff of the Student Support Services will provide guidance to these students and help them to understand self and make better choices in life.
Mention was also made of trained psychologists and counsellors. Are these the same resources that are presently overwhelmed by the share number of students and schools that have to be serviced on a daily basis and who are already burnt out and losing their motivation to work? What then would be the quality of their interventions with these special students?
We must be cautioned that successful rehabilitation of any kind requires a 90 per cent willingness on the part of the participant. Has any assessment been done on these students to determine their readiness for such a programme, or are we hoping that they develop this as they go along?
We must be reminded that the reason these students are in this predicament in the first place is due to their struggle with school or what school represents to them. How would they respond? The Minister expressed that he anticipates no resistance to the programme, however, one must be cognisant of passive resistance and the ability of unmotivated people to ride out the duration of the programme without any change in their disposition.
There is no mention of parental involvement in the rehabilitation process and this is cause for concern. Are we intending to work with these students during the day and send them to an untreated home environment that may have contributed to their delinquency in the first place. This is like spinning top in mud. Families must play an integral part of the restoration of these students and not simply to ensure that their children attend the programme.
I see this as a step in the right direction and possibly a shaky start to the most required Psychosocial Assessment Centre. However, not trying to be pessimistic, but we run the risk of doing more harm than good if this programme is not properly organised and delivered in a scientific manner that is strictly monitored and evaluated.
Let’s do it right the first time.