Prepare for new wave of criminals, misery

Two senior academics are convinced that if the education deficit at the primary and secondary levels, spawned by the novel coronavirus pandemic, worsens, Jamaica will be saddled with a new wave of criminals and miserable citizens.

Professor Anthony Clayton, the Alcan professor of Caribbean sustainable development at The University of the West Indies (UWI), and Social Anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle, who is also based at The UWI, advanced the view in recent interviews with the Jamaica Observer looking at the fallout in the education sector as students, many of them from poor families, have not been able to log on to online classes because they cannot afford smart devices or Internet fees.

New reports have shown that some of these students, driven by the need to survive, have opted to find work on construction sites and other low-skilled jobs.

“Unfortunately, that is all too likely. Some of them will just have lives which are just much more miserable than they would have been, and others probably are going to end up going into crime,” Professor Clayton said.

Every one of us makes a moral decision whether or not we go into crime. With a lot of kids coming out who are going to have a big gap in their education, the problems could be worse in the future,” he pointed out.

He said the typical models for how schools operate — from the primary to more advanced levels — will need to be revamped to teach children how to think critically.

Clayton, a British citizen, said countries like the United Kingdom are considering how to begin assessing students’ performance to allow them to advance academically.

“The whole exam system has been so disrupted that they are going to rely on teacher assessments, rather than exams. What this means is that you are going to have what the teachers think you would have got, as opposed to what you actually would get on the exam. The whole process has been so damaged that it is hard to simply run the examinations system as it used to be,” Clayton said.

“Are we going to have a whole cohort coming through whose grades are going to be seriously affected? Do we then say, ‘Okay, everybody who came through in this particular period, we are going to give you 20 per cent more to make up’?

“But what will happen when those kids go into the workforce and can’t perform? This is a huge problem. We have already got kids who don’t have a good chance at getting a decent life. Statistically, we know that many of those kids are just going to be really struggling to get any kind of job prospect in the future,” he added.

Dr Gayle had a similar view, saying the people who will be left behind at the end of the pandemic are the poorer Jamaicans, whether or not they display high levels of intelligence.

“Poor youths get served last. Poor young women and men in a pandemic are the last persons you look at. If you look at your Gini coefficient, they are always going to be the most socially vulnerable. As a violence expert, I would be concerned about the people who are left behind. The people who are always left behind are the ones who commit the most crimes,” he said.

“Any country you go to and you see them have an apprenticeship and mentorship system that ensures young people have social participation, their murder rate is almost non-existent. All of those countries where especially the males are disenfranchised, the murder rate is going to scare you to the grave. That is the story of Jamaica,” Dr Gayle said.

Dr Gayle said people with high intelligence quotient (IQ) are not necessarily the ones who are most successful in the long run. Those who have rich parents, but are not advanced academically usually turn out better in the long run,” he argued.

“If you have an IQ of 140, but have poor parents and I have an IQ of 110 and I have solid financially backing parents, who makes better grades — the money one. That piece of study has been very embarrassing around the world. Money always beats out intelligence. That is harsh. If you are poor and bright, the probability still exists that you are going to be using that brilliance for crime, because there is no support system and you are frustrated. You don’t want to be frustrated and bright. When you work with gangs and criminals, like I do, frustrated and bright is the epitome of that crew of people,” he said.

“There was this man that was killed around three years ago in Belize. That man told me that when he was going to school and struggling he still managed to win regional competitions. And with all of that he thought, after the big fanfare about him, that people were going to come out and help him. Nobody helped him. He eventually joined the Bloods gang. One week after joining the gang people were seeing him on the road and giving him money, telling him respect because of fear. Do you see the danger?”

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