Samuda laments teacher shortage at juvenile centresWednesday, May 12, 2021
BY HORACE HINES
MONTEGO BAY, St James — Citing that education is a key component to prevent repeat juvenile offenders, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of National Security Senator Matthew Samuda says he is saddened that the juvenile facilities run by the Department of Correctional Services (DCS) are suffering from an acute shortage of teachers.
“Unfortunately, delivering the desired quality of education in our juvenile facilities remains a challenge. DCS suffers from teacher shortages, as well as a high turnover rate of the teachers it manages to attract. For a variety of reasons teaching at DCS juvenile facilities often presents as less desirable for teachers in Jamaica compared to other educational institutions,” Samuda lamented in an address to the Rotary Club of Kingston virtual luncheon meeting last Thursday.
“The shortage of teachers also limits the range of academic and vocational subjects being taught. Additionally, the learning spaces in our juvenile facilities require upgrading and the collection of educational tools and materials will have to be augmented,” he added.
“Jamaica has a disturbingly high recidivism rate — around 40 per cent by our estimates. That means 40 per cent of people who are convicted of an offence and serve their sentence will go on to reoffend, and that figure includes those who were convicted as minors. Recidivism in Jamaica is, by and large, the function of two phenomena: comparative barriers to social reintegration for ex-convicts and the enduring appeal of the criminal lifestyle,” Samuda explained.
He, however, noted that despite the challenges, the DCS has still been able to enrol the majority of wards in an academic programme, namely Jamaica School Certificate, an examination at the end of grade 9 taken mainly by people who are no longer in school and some grade 9 students in all-age schools; Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate for students at the end of secondary level education; and Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination, which is designed to provide certification of the academic, vocational and technical achievement of students after a minimum of five years' secondary education.
Some wards, Samuda said, benefit from a remedial programme, while others pursue vocational subjects, learning skills they can directly employ upon leaving State care.
“These efforts are supported by external partners such as the Ministry of Education, Rise Life Management, and Stand Up for Jamaica, who assist with the payment of fees and provision of educational resources, as well as the implementation of life skills programmes,” Samuda disclosed.
He also pointed to the Ministry of National Security's We Transform Youth Empowerment Programme, noting that it provides evidence-based interventions for young people to help them avoid offending and reoffending.
The programme, he said, operates in all four of the DCS's juvenile institutions with a goal “to implement mentoring relationships between the wards and external members of civil society”.
“We believe that those mentoring relationships will expose the wards to a greater range or career and life opportunities and simultaneously facilitate an easier path for reintegration into civil society. The goal is to expand We Transform to facilitate internship placement opportunities, further training, and grants for our wards,” he said.
“As we expand these educational opportunities in collaboration with our external partners, as well as enhance the educational capacity of DCS, we will continuously advance our efforts to divert youth offenders away from criminality.”
There are currently 193 children in the care of the DCS, which currently operates four facilities that house youths convicted or remanded by the courts.
The Metcalfe Juvenile Remand Centre, located in downtown Kingston, houses boys under 18 years awaiting trial; Hill Top and Rio Cobre Juvenile Correctional centres house the boys who have been convicted of an offence, and South Camp Juvenile Remand and Correctional Centre houses girls under 18 years who have been convicted of crimes and who are awaiting trial.
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