All too often, we see our children in the news. Whether rape, theft or murder, we see too many of our future generation making headlines for all the wrong reasons.
We have to now look at ways to reverse the growing trend of youth crime and violence. And peace education is one of the best ways to resolve and reduce these crimes. Informed learning can provide alternatives to resolving social conflicts within our society.
Many young persons may not have the ability to know the difference between crime and its effects on the community, the society and the self. But if clearly demonstrated, they can be taught and in turn, encourage a positive message amongst their peers.
President of the Caribbean Mentorship Institute Felicia Browne notes that “the past few weeks, and in the last 24 hours we have witnessed a rising trend of violence amongst our youths. There are deep fundamental questions that must be investigated to provide the best solutions to their problems.
“However, crime-prevention education and conflict interventions can alleviate some of these existing problems. The growing concerns of youth advocates are the age groups and genders of these victims. The victims of violence crimes have little or no social assistance to resolve their problems. For instance, we are observing a trend in young males being victims of violent crimes — some of which are or have been done by either a family member, friend within their circle, or someone within their communities.”
Additionally, Ms Browne adds that the increasing rate in unemployment has given young males very little choices in the current economic climate. Young men, she adds, are vulnerable, as many are left to fend for themselves by family and community members.
This type of vulnerability is well-presented in the high levels of drug and alcohol abuse amongst their peers. The growing number of young offenders for petty crimes has increased over the last few years; and many are reluctant to seek alternatives that are inconsistent in nature given peer pressure within areas ravaged by the gang mentality.
Education has an influential role in human and national development. According to UNESCO, it is important that vocational and self-development skills are taught to young men before leaving the school system. At-risk young men are easily targeted by potential social threats as they are unable to either defend themselves economically or lack the capacity to develop small businesses.
According to the CMI president, “We are also hoping to conduct youth anti-crime awareness which would include -interactive class activities — the role plays in lesson two of the No Witness-No Justice Programme spearheaded by the US Embassy. The young participants will observe, analyse and discuss cases of gender-based violence and other forms of crimes; discuss how seeing someone they know committing a serious offence and deciding what is the best choice/way forward, and then mock trials. These types of crime prevention education can teach our children from a very young age the effects of crime and their role as good citizens.”
“Our main purpose is to educate young people on their society and make better for them. Crime prevention and peace education must be part of our educational curriculum. We cannot teach children to be law abiding citizens if it is not seen as part of their daily lives. We teach them mathematics, English and other academic areas, yet pay little attention to life’s skills like fire safety, self-defence, and peace education. Children can only learn if they are taught at very early stages in life, not when it is too late, and they are caught in the web of crime and self-destruction.We must teach them the basic knowledge of the judicial system and how it functions so they would foster neither fear nor hesitation with regard to the law. We need foster a holistic approach to law, good citizenry, and governance.”
Ms. Browne also notes that one of the future projects for the Caribbean Mentorship Institute is to undertake and develop a vocational education college for young men and women in St. Lucia. The CMI is hoping to partner with City and Guilds, which provides professional training and certification in more technical fields that will allow these young men and women to nurture a trade of their own or develop their own small business. Our youths need to be empowered. They need to have somewhere in which they can develop their ideas and make something of themselves.
Additionally, immediate social solutions are needed as well; for instance, every community should have a conflict–resolution team. In any case, community members are faced with challenges that require interventions. These interventions can assist community members to resolve their problems through peaceful and practical solutions.
Research has shown that independent voices in times of community conflict may provide positive reinforcements- rather than the presence of the police or security forces who are usually heavily armed with weapons.
A society which seeks to reduce crime must seek alternative, peaceful methods of crime prevention. These preventive actions and solutions must be incorporated in a holistic approach in which each young child understands the effects of crimes within her home, school, community and society. Young children, as well as our youths must be given the opportunity to have a fair chance in life — and a life that is free from violence, poverty and abuse.