If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice and last Monday, it was clear the people of Trinidad responded to our leaders by not speaking.
Criminologist Prof Emeritus Ramesh Deosaran says a lot of the current school misery, violence and delinquency could have been prevented if action had been duly taken when the signs and growing evidence were pointed out.
He was speaking about the recent acts of violence which have placed the Chaguanas North Secondary School in the spotlight.
Deosaran said a school, like the education system itself, had limits in changing a community or a society.
“So the extent to which a community is severely fragmented, criminogenic, lawless and largely occupied by slack parenting, to that extent will its school become vulnerable to such perversities.
“If you look at the nature of many of the communities surrounding the Chaguanas North Secondary School and some others so affected, you will see the extent to which this community-school relationship exists,” he noted.
For this reason, he said, inserting anti-violence and delinquency programmes in a particular school should also be firmly accompanied by community restoration programmes. In addition, he said, a new type of teacher was also required for such schools.
Beyond industrial relations issues, Deosaran said, teachers’ views from the ground level upwards needed to be taken more seriously and attended to more expeditiously.
“The extent to which many teachers have themselves become demoralised in tackling the problem has also contributed to the apparent increase in both frequency and seriousness.”
Deosaran said the Government must note that many primary schools were also becoming infected with increasing delinquency.
Asked whether boot camps, as suggested by Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon, was a good idea, he said there was already an expensive set of programmes for youths who drifted away from formal schooling.
Deosaran said first find out what were the rewards of the boot camp.
“To jump sporadically from programme to programme can well be another policy that wastes taxpayers’ money.
“In any case, we are yet to hear the precise framework, enrolment type and objectives of this boot camp idea,” he added.
School violence ‘a
It was better to now focus on recognising the seriousness of the school violence and delinquency problem and perhaps, more seriously, ask instead why those who had a chance to bring positive change did not do so, Deosaran said.
“The entire situation has become one of saddening monstrosity.”
He said the management of student discipline had to be an inter-connected system—from teacher, dean, principal, supervisor, ministry and possibly the Teaching Service Commission (TSC).
Deosaran said as a former member of the TSC, there were supervisory and management breaches at each point in the system, that even when a dean or principal sought to act properly, “the chain becomes as strong as its weakest link.”
As for corporal punishment, he said as a public policy, it faced a continuing dilemma; and apart from the philosophy behind it, the manner in which it was abruptly disbanded created a special challenge for teachers.
“The dilemma is that while surveys show over 80 per cent of teachers support corporal punishment with appropriate controls, both TTUTA and the previous government do not support it,” he added.
However, he said, the irony was that a related survey revealed that parents imposed a higher proportion of corporal punishment at home than teachers did at school for similar offences.
Deosaran said global remedies for all schools and all teachers would no longer work effectively since, as has been quite evident for a long time, schools differed from one another in social characteristics, community conditions and student challenges.
In the present circumstances, he said, the more strategic approach was to take each affected school, as a priority, properly measure and then insert an appropriate set of ameliorative remedies with benchmarks for improvement.
He said: “Each such selected school should be evaluated on its own terms—academic output, student discipline, leadership and extra-curricular activities. It is no longer good governance to wait until a school crisis explodes to rush into action.”