A few weeks ago, in a radio interview, MP Fitzgerald Hinds was asked to explain why—as he had said, despite the progress that the PNM had made in his constituency, and the benefits it had provided for the youth—there was still so much crime in the area. His reply was that he was not a sociologist and would find it difficult to give a reasonable answer.
I am no sociologist myself, but an educator of over 35 years of teaching experience, and believe I can offer a reasoned opinion on the problem of the behaviour of the youth in such a depressed area that perhaps might have some bearing on other marginalised communities.
For many years governments, when considering education, have been paying much attention to secondary and tertiary education and leaving primary education on the back burner. Though they did not abandon the primary section, they nevertheless treated it as not as important, except of course for the significance of the SEA.
Many of the pupils from these depressed areas perform very poorly in the SEA examinations, as they did in the Common Entrance.
When such pupils go to secondary schools, obviously they are not able to cope with this higher level of work and naturally give problems. Eventually they drop out of school and try to get attention through the display of delinquent behaviour of different types, and find themselves good fodder for gangs.
I am not saying all weak pupils will fall into this manner of behaviour, but it is the few who become gang members and resort to various types of crime who cause us grave concern.
My major point for a solution is that we need to focus more on the education of the youth in the primary schools. Weak pupils need more individual attention. If they are put in the normal primary school class of 30 or more pupils, they would never get ahead, as experience has shown us.
Primary school teachers are so concerned about preparing their pupils for the important SEA examination that they do not have the time to give the individual attention these weak pupils need. Such pupils should not be in classes of more than 15. Some need even smaller classes. Added to this, such pupils need specialised teachers.
The Adult Literacy Tutors Association classes have shown us how individual attention to weak students can result in improvement and great motivation for the weaker ones.
My challenge to those in charge of education is to focus on primary education, and this will give a much better chance to the young people of these depressed areas. Money spent in such a way will be money well spent.