Students found ‘roaming’ the streets of St Georges after school face going to jail, according to the latest warning from the Royal Grenada Police Force.
At the start of the school year, the police force stated: “The RGPF reminds the general public that loitering is an offense (Sec 137 subsection 24 and 25 of the Criminal Code, CAP 1 of 1994 Continuous Revised Laws of Grenada) and children found so doing may be arrested.”
It’s a sad state of affairs when the decision is made that, threatening school children with imprisonment is preferable to addressing the limited options in after-school activities for them to engage in. The approach smacks of fighting the symptoms while ignoring the cause.
Criminalizing school kids makes little sense
The police also cautioned, “Parents and guardians must be mindful of the negative influences that can affect children who are allowed to roam the streets with no restrictions.” Yet labelling school children as a threat isn’t borne out by the statistics.
According to a report by the Ministry of Social Development, between 2009 and 2011, 17,230 people (15.7% of the population) were charged with committing an offence. Of these just 1,047 (less than 1% of the total population) were 17-years-old or younger.
One way to interpret this evidence could to view the period before 17 years of age as offering a window to mitigate the likelihood of them turning to crime in later years.
Perhaps, by constructively harnessing their energy and passions while they’re still in school, young people can be more effectively equipped with the skills they need in order to actively engage in the workforce.
Time to stop talking and start listening to youth
Grenada has signed up to The Commonwealth Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment. But if our leaders are serious about ’empowerment’ aspect, why are young people still viewed as the problem rather than the solution?
Maybe if adolescents were seen, less as potential teenage mothers, criminals or drug users and more, as intelligent individuals capable of expressing their needs and desires we would be better placed to listen more intently to this age group and allow mainstream practice and policy to be shaped by their views.
Take action on improving education quality in Grenada
Let’s get serious about improving the quality of education that young people receive in Grenada. There’s been talk in the past of Grenada becoming a knowledge economy. If we understand what this means then it’s clear that how many subjects you have matters less than your ability to think independently. Poor quality education has damaging consequences.
Perhaps better education would have enabled the creation of a better solution by the police. The current proposal to imprison students who loiter after school and thus put further burden to the already strained public purse by increasing the prison population while limiting the ‘offenders’ ability to find work in the future doesn’t add up.
More (and better) after-school programmes are needed
Last week the government committed $30 million to the New Imani programme to help unemployed youth into work and address the skills gap. But why not close the stable door before the horse bolts? There’s growing recognition that participation in high-quality afterschool programs is associated with better grades, work habits, task persistence, and social skills.
Why not invest in high-quality after-school programme in which all players – young people, educators and future employers – have an equal voice is designing programs that can lead to exceptional learning and successful careers?
Such initiatives have been shown to have positive effects on children’s academic, social, and emotional lives and this can be especially true for at-risk youth.
These are just a few ideas, maybe you disagree. Share your ideas, in the comment section below, on how we create solutions to the loitering issue that are better than jail.