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Thwaites offers school-based answer to crime

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, January 22, 2014    

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MINISTER of Education Ronald Thwaites yesterday informed the House of Representatives of his ministry's new school-based initiative which he says should help the country deal with its scourge of crime.

He said that the ministry has empanelled a committee to develop a special pre-emptive intervention through the school system, in partnership with the Ministry of National Security's Unite for Change project.

"When fully implemented, it should significantly contribute to the reduction of crime in Jamaica, over the medium to long term," he told the House.

A Ministry Paper (Number 8/14) which the Minister tabled, explained that a special intervention will be crafted for 56 seriously affected schools, 18 of which were identified by the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) through a study entitled "Education and Crime". It was conducted by the force's Research, Planning and Legal Services Branch and sampled 894 prison inmates and their background, including the schools they attended.

The police report named four schools which figured most prominently in their study -- Kingston High, Holy Trinity High, Vauxhall High and Norman Manley High. Jamaica College was the only traditional high school in the 18, while Calabar in Kingston and Jones Town in Kitson Town, St Catherine were the only primary schools. The others were all upgraded secondary schools.

Thwaites said a coordinating committee to refine, implement and evaluate the initiative has been identified and will recommend "a construct/entity" to conduct the approved interventions "and embed them as necessary".

Leader of the Opposition and its spokesman on education, Andrew Holness, however described the plan as a "band aid", which would do nothing to address the issue of the 20,000 students leaving high schools with no certification, most of whom drift into crime.

But Thwaites insisted that the opposite was true, as strategies would be included which have not been tried before.

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