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The education system: An incubator for crime? -Part2
Assistant Commissioner of Police, Margaret Sampson-Browne, who is in charge of community relations and the community policing unit, according to media reports, is the woman charged with the task of locating the 4,000 students “missing” from the school system. At the time of writing, newspapers reported that principals were in the process of submitting names of these students to the Ministry of Education and police officers were feverishly working to obtain the names of those students. But ACP Sampson-Browne’s Unit can only do so much. She, in her own words, admits that the unit has its work cut out.
She has formulated a plan, but it is one that is after the fact, and cannot be a substitute for responsible parenthood. She has promised that a six-week school intervention programme—similar to one she initiated as senior superintendent in charge of the Eastern Division—would be established soon to address school dropouts disclosed by Dr Tim Gopeesingh. The programme requires delinquent students to report to police stations dressed in full school uniform accompanied by a parent, to engage in various programmes, including leadership skills, anger management and the consequences of delinquent behaviour.
They might also need to visit homes to find out why and what they were doing with school time, to ensure that this did not become crime time. The chamber commends ACP Sampson-Browne for these responsible and exemplary efforts as a senior police officer. Even as we commend this effort we wonder if it would be burdensome on the police unit, and whether there is an opportunity here for the Ministry of Education to introduce, once more, the civilian truant officers of a bygone era.
In tandem with this, there is a golden opportunity, in our opinion, for teachers to restore themselves to the position of respect, influence and dignity which members of the profession once occupied. We say unreservedly that teachers must return to involvement in their students’ family and community lives, for where these are lacking, teachers may be the only exemplars their charges may know; such is the power of a teacher. And now we turn to the 58 teachers on disciplinary complaints before the Teaching Service Commission, for seven to eight years in most instances. This is nothing but an abomination of the highest order.
At one time or another, civil cases in our High Court took five years to be tried. Thankfully, that period of time has been reduced by more efficient case management and process. The situation with the Teaching Service Commission reminds the chamber of a similar position with disciplinary complaints before the Police Service Commission prior to most of this jurisdiction being conferred upon the Commissioner of Police. In fact, the Chamber would be very interested to know what the statistics are now. Complaints from members of the public are no less. So, too, are complaints about the integrity irresponsibility, incompetence and inefficiency of police officers in the judgments of both judges and magistrates.
Moreover, the recently revived Police Complaints Authority has disclosed that the rate of complaints is 68 in 13 days. It is for this very reason that the chamber, in its review of the Constitution, has proposed the abolition of service commissions and their replacement by conferring the authority to hire, fire and discipline on those charged with the responsibility of leading the respective organisations. In the case of schools, the authority must repose in their principals or school boards, and not with the Ministry of Education or the Teaching Service Commission, either. In our view, the roles of ministries in these functions ought to be facilitative and of policy only.
Effective discipline is discipline which is immediate, effective and just. The chamber shares the concerns of the minister with the trauma suffered by the 58 or more victims giving rise to the charges against the respective teachers. Omission, failure or neglect to look after these students could also be yet another incubator of crime. The chamber urges the new minister, under this new administration, to conduct a full-scale review of the Education Act. Not only must this be from the perspective of possibly making parents liable for the acts of their children—for it seems that there are already problems with identification of parents—but, from the country’s experiences with these dropouts the discipline of teachers, children and parents, in order that the Ministry of Education may contribute to enforcement of the law.
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