25 Jan

One word.  OUTRAGEOUS!!! Well…that is even an understatement to describe the Minister of Education’s (MOE) parliamentary presentation of the findings of the research conducted by  Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) entitled:  “Education and Crime: Evidence from Prison Inmates in Jamaica”.

New name for schools: Lock Down High School

My first inclination was to vehemently lash out against the JCF for its findings but somehow a voice of reason whispered in my ear “DON’T!. Look at the research more thoroughly”.  I paused. Then told myself I need to get hold of it. Thankfully my learned friend Gavin Myers who always stayed in the loop posted it on facebook.  “Great” I thought. (facebook actually has some worth readers)  I read. I am still thoroughly analyzing it but I have read enough to comment on the matter.

Let us get something clear. While the research findings alluded to a correlation between schools and criminals, it DID NOT label schools as “Prison Schools” nor “breeding grounds for criminals”.  As a matter of fact, it highlighted several socio-economic issues that may have influenced the shaping of  criminal minds among our youths  such as single parenting, school dropouts, community influence, little or no parental involvement,  etc…   The research had other short comings such as no proof of the veracity of information provided by inmates re the school attended; the length of time they attended the institution; the time period they attended; was that the only institution they attended; the time frame within which the research was carried out; the conditions under which it was done, etc…    The research even highlighted some of these short comings, yet our dear MOE saw it fit to table this in parliament and gloss over the other issues and focused his attention on schools by calling them “breeding grounds for criminals”.

I have always had great respect for the intellectual acumen of Mr Ronnie Thwaites but I am convinced this time around, his usual perspicacity went on a hiatus.   I was left to ask the question: What exactly was the minister’s objective when he decided to table this research in the parliament?  Our politicians have become proficient in gaining political mileage at the vilification of others that it is unclear when the utterances of our politicians are completely altruistic versus self-interest.

Regardless of what his intentions were, I believe his utterances were reckless, careless, inappropriate, unwarranted, in sensitive, you name it.  (List the others for me.)  

guess this is why they are called prison schools

How can you label schools as breeding ground for criminals when our society is replete with social disintegration issues?   Some of the schools singled out in this research are located in garrisons, and nine out of ten children living in those communities will attend these schools.  In most cases the informal institutions within these communities take precedence over those of the schools, how then do you blame a school for the path that these former students took?  Some of these youngsters enter high schools as harden criminals as they have already been through the rudimental training in their communities and have been elevated to ‘experts’.   Schools are not rehabilitation centers, yet, they have rehabilitated several of our youths through numerous interventions.  Had it not been for schools, there is a strong possibility that we would have more criminals within society.   Like you have said in your presentation Mr. Thwaites, teachers are not trained in teachers colleges to deal with the behavioural problems associated with these social deficits yet, they attempt to rehabilitate. Clearly Mr Thwaites, the efforts of these institutions are still not enough for you.

We ought not to forget that schools are microcosm of society hence the problem within schools are symptomatic of the wider society.   This should be a perfect opportunity to assess each variable and attack them individually in an attempt to erase crime.

As if the minister’s pronouncement was not enough, the media added insult to injury.   I was horrified when I saw the headlines in the print media the following morning with the title “Prison schools”. Are these people out of their minds?  How insensitive and irresponsible can one be?  But then again, why am I am surprised?  The media has become a specialist in sensationalism.  (rolling my eyes)   To attach a such a derogatory label to an educational institution charge with the mandate of molding young people is preposterous!   Have you ever heard there is power in the tongue?   My grandmother would say  “stop wash mouth pon people pickney”  (read: do not make bad prediction about others ) Did the media and the minister think about how such labels can affect the morale of staff and students at the institutions named?  Some schools are already suffering a deficit in this area and its leaders are working hard to improve it.  Comments of this nature does very little to assist them.

dismantling school to prison pipeline

Amidst my ranting, I must commend the JCF for taking the initiative do a research of this nature as it has never been done in Jamaica.   This research is in its embryonic stage and based on the short comings/loopholes of this research, the validity and reliability is questionable.  Nonetheless they are on to something.  In other jurisdiction there has been talks about dismantling the pipeline that runs from schools to prisons.  Therefore, this research  has opened the door for extensive research on various socio-economic issues and their impact on education and national security and to keep us on par with global trends in education.  This is the opportunity the minister should have seen; reach out to school administrators; decide on the way forward. This is a perfect opportunity for collaboration of efforts among the MOE, school administrators, security force, social workers, The Child Development Agency, and several other stakeholders.

The damage has been done. Several principals, teachers and students have been hurt by these utterances.  Nonetheless, it doesn’t mean fences cannot be mended.  Yes, prides have been hurt but there is a greater good that we are working towards…the betterment of our education system.

My closing argument, Minister of Education Mr Ronnie Thwaites, you owe the educational institutions especially those named in the report an apology.

*pictures used in this articleswas taken from google images




  1. EDUCATION & CRIME: THE MINISTER BLUNDERED (WELCOME TO LOCK DOWN HIGH SCHOOL) | educatordorrainereidinspires - January 25, 2014


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