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Noble: T&T must address childhood trauma, or risk being outnumbered by criminals

Trinidadians are amazing people. Glorifying each raid led by Commissioner of Police Gary Griffith, we ignore his 21 November prophecy, in Chaguanas, of 100,000 new criminals in the next five years.

“It is really important for us… to look at secondary crime prevention… If we do not deal with this situation now, in years to come we will be outnumbered because of what we are seeing with certain young persons in society.”

Speaking about gang leaders, he said: “they are looking up at these individuals […] seeing them as the Robin Hoods…”

Photo: Alleged Rasta City president and Sea Lots resident, Cedric “Godfather Burkie” Burke.
(Copyright Islandmix)

In this, he echoes columnist Raffique Shah’s 2011 declaration that “we simply do not have the manpower to deal with what we are up against… even if they rotate their crime clampdowns, they face mission impossible.”

In other words, we may win battles but stand a very good chance of losing the war.

This is the context for the 12-year old’s November threat to murder Griffith. We pooh-pooh it but it is not a child’s fantasy. We miss the link between this act and the murders of Sean Luke and Amy Emily Annamuthodo and Akiel Chambers, even as we mourn ritualistically Joash Pantin.

What do they have in common? A harsh uncaring society that subjects them to random acts of violence, setting up mental health problems for the child-survivors.

The chaos does not begin with murder; it is the result of decades of underinvestment in neighbourhoods where schools, health facilities and social services limp. Every day is brutal.

Quick to celebrate those who succeed, like Christian Birchwood who graduated from The UTT with an engineering degree, we ignore Christian’s words: “… stigma attached to the area leads them to be treated in a particular manner on a larger scale.”

Doubly cursed is their lot in life. ‘Study and do well’ does not result in success if you live in these parts.

Photo: A protest at Fanny Government Primary School.
(Copyright Trinidad Guardian)

We promote overcoming the odds as a personal responsibility instead of trying to bring structural change in those environments. This structural inequity condemns many to never have the chance to live normal lives.

Children’s lives are a mirror of adult life: the economic woes of the 1970’s gave us absentee parents and the barrel children, who became the fathers and mothers of today’s criminals. The rise of single parenting and the need for parents to work shift labour reduce the parental ability to monitor, allowing gangs to become attractive.

Our children witness suffering, injury and death, responding with grief and fear. This leads to them developing hardened shells to protect against further hurt feelings. Their rage is primitive as the victim becomes the victimiser spreading the damage all around.

We shatter their values and connection to the chain of humanity, so they adopt a cold, uncaring and tough exterior and are unable to pay attention to details in schools. They underperform in school and we call them ‘duncey’, but they are not.

Parents work out their conflicts in front of the children with all the raw language and men beat women. This creates a sense of instability and impotence. The children then cover it up with bravado and become hardened to feelings.

Their mental health issues are more than depression or anxiety. They have deep hatred for self and suffer a profound loss of trust in both their own community and our nation.

Photo: A young man shows off his firearm.
(Copyright We-heart)

“If you do not care for me, I do not care for you” becomes their mantra. We then characterise them as ‘animals’ socially immoral, inherently violent, yet fail to address their trauma.

Preventing violence against our children and around our children is an important social goal. Effective social policy saves lives. We need to reconceptualise our guidance officers’ work in the schools and reach out to parents. We need to provide meals, primary health care and better resources in schools. What is at stake is the well-being of our next generation.

Will we step up? Or will we barricade ourselves and hope for the best?

Reducing the pain of everyday living for our children will pay great dividends. Gary Griffith and Raffique Shah have both told us that being the biggest bad john in town cannot still the coming storm.

Only we can if we choose to intervene and help our less fortunate families. Will we?

About Noble Philip

Noble Philip
Noble Philip, a retired business executive, is trying to interpret Jesus’ relationships with the poor and rich among us. A Seeker, not a Saint.

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52 comments

  1. TEACHING STREET LAW

    A Minister of National Security cannot possibly go into the field and “fix” the crime problem. His function—on his own initiative and in conjunction with other Ministries and critical stakeholders, like the Judiciary—is to provide policies and recommend legislation that address the structural deficiencies in the system by which we investigate crime and administer criminal justice.
    Columnist Raffique Shah’s 2011 echoes declaration that “we simply do not have the manpower to deal with what we are up against… even if they rotate their crime clampdowns, they face mission impossible.”
    We must acknowledge the fact that we have behavioral problems at all administrative employment levels and all stratification layers in our society.
    We have a tendency to believe in “quick fix” comfort applications.
    However it is a hovering assemblage of beliefs that we are intelligent enough to know that this approach does not work.
    We have observed that almost all our organizations do not have a plan of action.
    We must understand also that “no plan, signals no emergency outlet” and red flags a malfunctioning organization.
    Is there a distinction between “quick fix and strategic planning?”
    What do they have in common? A harsh uncaring society that subjects them to random acts of violence, setting up mental health problems for the child-survivors.
    Should national skeptics declare this a fact or fake news! The political pit bulls would bite :
    Substantiate this with “empirical data” or better yet with “evidence-based data.”
    The conservatives’ generalization strategizes:
    The chaos does not begin with murder; it is the result of decades of underinvestment in neighborhoods where schools, health facilities and social services limp. Every day is brutal
    Here the implication suggests a rejection of destructive politics that should return to principles of truth.
    It also suggests that we recognize that government and the process by which we go about electing leaders ought never to be mistaken for we must reaffirm our devotion to the rule of law.
    We must embrace intellectual independence and fidelity to the truth.
    We must reject the politics of the nasty, punitive, and the fact-free. And re-assert a conservatism of high ideals, goodwill, and even better arguments.
    It is interesting that you brought up the idea of investments. I will push this a bit more into the National School Curriculum as an elective exposure for Secondary School Students.
    Teaching about law, advances Justice for all.
    At my school in New York City; we have an elective term teaching Street Law. It advances justice through classroom and community education programs that empower students with the legal and civic knowledge, skills, and confidence to bring about positive change for themselves and others.
    Empowering young people through law related education. Law related education is a unique blend of substance and instructional strategies students learn substantive information about law. Democracy, and human Rights through Strategies that promote Problem Solving, Critical Thinking, Cooperative Learning, Improved Communication and Conflict Resolution skills, and the ability to participate effectively in society. Law generally reflect and promote a society’s values. Our legal system is influenced by our society’s traditional ideas of Right and Wrong
    Dr. Cliff Bertrand
    Former New York City Board of Education Public School Administrator.

  2. Starting point. We are training nurses every year and they are unemployed. Not one primary or secondary school has a nurse. Teachers are ‘pretend nurses’ every day at our schools promoted by the Ministries of Education and Health ‘Pure Madness’ . Put Registered Nurses in our schools now!

  3. We’d talk about this forever with no real, sustainable efforts to deal with this. From the comments I see the individual efforts but a glaring lack of systems and support at a national level. There are many who would like to invest in our children but are not supported y the decision makers. I’m one of those persons. I experienced the lip service, brush off and not interested in that first hand. Determined to make a difference I worked with a small group including my own kids. I don’t have all the answers but I can contribute if ever there’s a real seriousness to fix this big problem. Lasana Liburd this is issue need lots of airtime, thanks for starting. I have access to tools and programs if anyone wants to take over from me.

  4. This is what happens when both sides of the political divide run conservative. There’s only so many boots whose straps are loose enough to pull.

  5. Please allow me to reshare this along with your caption?

  6. The challenge with Guidance officers are that the function within the ambit of the Primary and secondary school system, which is after the fact. children would have already been poorly socialized so the Guidance Officers are just outing fires. In other words it’s a reactionary rather than a proactive position.

  7. Lasana this has been a Draft Policy Document for ions and has been used as a political football. Tim Goopiesingh demonized it.

  8. The point about what guidance officers—I knew them as guidance counsellors—bring to the table is a good one.
    I’d like to hear more about what they are meant to provide for schools, what tools they have and how many of them are in operation.

  9. My point is if our social challenges are not addressed from a change as early as preschoolers we will continue to spin top in mud, it’s the age the minds are most impressionable.

  10. I wonder how regulated that industry was. Not that I’d want to criticize her for starting the ball rolling. A start is a start and it is up to others to build on it.
    Why can’t we build on it now? Aren’t the building blocks still there?

  11. The curriculum was well put together with room for some tweaking to make it a complete guide. It placed emphasis on the holistic development of the child. and by extension had a supporting cast of Quality Assurance Officers, Family Community Support Officers and Curriculum Officers, all working together to ensure that most if not all needs of the child were met.

  12. Over the years we have blatantly ignored the structure and foundation that was well orchestrated by Dr. Hazel Manning (No Child Would Be Left Behind). The issues of crime and the reintegration of a community / society was in the hands of the Early Childhood Care and Education in Trinidad and Tobago.

  13. Good evening my people, we have and continue to sorely miss the mark on the way forward to create a paradigm shift in the protection, development and character building of our youth and by extension parental / community involvement.