Crime and Violence

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Date added: 17-09-26

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In Trinidad and Tobago we are presently faced with an alarming number of acts of violence and crime. Whatever the precise cause of the problem, the harsh consequences are that as a nation we are losing our young people, particularly to a life of crime and violence because most of our crime are being carried out by young peoples particularly males. In the fight against the increase in acts of crime and violence in Trinidad and Tobago we as a nation must take the initiative to address the issues of globalization, family diversity, education and the challenging socialization situation of our society today. Statistics have show that there has been a significant increase in the number of acts of violence and reported crimes especially by young people. In the year 2007 there were 395 murders and 115 kidnapping, this number increased in the year 2008 to 550 murders and 11 kidnapping (2009, TT Crime- Crime Statistics Trinidad – Tobago). There has also been a significant increase in serious reported crime from the year 2000 from 17,132 to well over 20,000 in 2009. An article by Carmen Sanchez entitled Trinidad and Tobago murder capital of the Caribbean stated as of June 2009 there were 550 homicides at a rate of 55 murders per. 100,000. We need as a nation to critical examine our young people and listen to them; these acts of violence are not only unacceptable but are cries for help by persons who have been abused, live a life of poverty and have low self-esteem. Baumeister (1999) stated that people with low self-esteem may channel their violent tendencies towards others in acts of violence. Based on a study of self-esteem Kaplan (1975) conducted extensive studies into the causes of violence, including a study of 7,000 7th graders, and underscore the significance of self-esteem as a factor in crime and violence, he found that violations to self-esteem serve as a major source of hostility and aggression which contribute to crime and violence. There are many other factors that contribute to violence and delinquency; factors include drugs, poverty, abuse, frustration, class and cultural conflict and jealousy to name but a few, which can be directly affected by ones self-confidence and self-esteem. The development of self esteem and individual personality are highly dependant on key institutions in society such as the family, school, church and media. These institutions or agents have a tremendous impact on the development of the young child’s personality and self-esteem through socialization. Psychologist as Erickson with his theory of psychosocial development has identified a number of stages which describes the physical, emotional and cognitive development of the child from age 0 to adulthood. Bandura‘s social learning theory also explains how the environment influences behaviour and behaviour causes the environment as well. Erickson identified stages critical to the development of ones self-esteem and self-concept; from as early as 1 year the child needs to know that his or her basic needs such as affection are consistent and satisfied by parents/caregivers as this helps in developing trust vs mistrust. By age 12 the child is at the stage of identifying his identity; who am I? and what I want to be in life? This stage of building self-concept and esteem is greatly influences by the previous stages and the values which the child has been exposed to and learned through socialization. Albert Bandura’s theory of Social Learning is also significant in the development of a child’s personality. He believed individuals learned through observing others behaviour, attitudes and outcomes of those behaviours. In his study on adolescent aggression he suggests that behaviour causes or influences environment and the environment influences behaviour. A child will practice violence if the environment is one which endorses violence, the child will also use language effectively or not for communication, based on what he is exposed to during the early years of socialization. When examining the issue of violence among young people we must look at the agents who have the major role to socialize the child. The role of the family cannot be emphasized enough in the process of socialization of the child. The family is responsible for transforming a child into a sociable being; build emotional bonds, develop morals and values, participate in effective use of language and public conduct and body control. Other institutions as the schools, church, peer groups, media and sports help to pass on social expectations and contribute significantly to the process of socialization. According to Lochan (2005) the context of parenting is difficult today as the family is competing with the other agents of socialization; experience and issues such as love and violence which would have been previously experienced within the family are now being done by the media and peer groups. This changing socialization pattern is as a result of the changing role of parents and the family structure, influenced by factors such as globalization as more mothers are going out into the world of work. The nurturing and guidance one received from parental relationship at the primary level of socialization now take place in other context. The mass media is charged with the major responsibility of socialization and is not designed to take charge of responsibilities of the family previously mentioned, especially cultural and moral education. This decline in the family’s ability to carry out its function has become a challenge for children; they go into school and the larger society lacking education of basic norms and values and are exposed to situations which often times leads to socially unacceptable behaviour which may result in crime and violence. After the family the school is viewed as the next major agent of socialization, schools provides experiences and opportunities for the child to engage in; social interaction with others and develop friendship to build their self esteem, to learn how to functions in groups, how to deal with and resolve conflict, to respect rules and authority, instill discipline along with citizenship education to name a few. The school system and teachers do have the responsible for morals and values education of young children as they are still maturing and to a great extent influenced by this institution because of the time spent there. However the school is being burdened with the responsibility to perform basic socialization functions which should be done at the family level, but is not achieved as the family is deficient in several ways mainly due to the change in parental roles. In our country of Trinidad and Tobago there is an old saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’, however we must examine the village as it isn’t the same as it use to be, the change in family structure and parental roles have affected the way in which children are socialized. It only goes to reinforce the point that the solution to violence and crime does lie mainly in the primary school. All agents of socialization must come together to help socialize our young children, as no one institution can do it alone. An article in the daily express by John Spence identified that there is a need to examine the school system and education to help combat the issue of crime and violence and the socialization deficit facing our society and public education today. He stated that improvement in the primary school could have a substantial influence on our whole system; he also saw involvement of the church in education as filling a vacuum and providing education to those who would receive none at all at home. This view taken by Spencer further supports the analysis that the school cannot do it alone. The value of socialization experienced in the education setting is critical as a child spends many of his formative years of learning at the institution. Schools have been faced with the challenge by the Ministry of Education’s Vision 2020 plan to produce critical thinkers, problem solvers, and well rounded, resilient contributing citizens for society. However based on the present state of our society we must ask the question, are they meeting this challenge? The statistics show that there are high rates of illiteracy, unemployment and poverty today which are mainly due to failure of the education system to meet all learners. Have schools made adjustments to their curriculum to deal with the presents change in society and to address the needs of our young people. Are our children being taught to think outside of the box and become an active learner? Can we blame the school for the present breakdown in the morals and values of young people? We must consider examining the values which are learned by students in ours schools, do teachers abide by rules and the regulations lay out by the Ministry of education. We need to consider how high teacher absenteeism and inappropriate behaviour by teachers influence the behaviour of students. Teachers need to examine themselves and question their abilities to be effective role models to their students, especially males as many of the acts of crime and violence are committed by young males. School need to examine their ability to enforce rules and regulations to ensure effective functioning of the institution to facilitate education and its role as an agent of socialization. There has been a significant increase in acts of indiscipline by students; they do not adhere to the rules of the schools, acts of violence at schools have increased in the numbers and there is a general decline in respect for authority by students. The school as an agent of socialization must question itself as to the factors which have contributed to these behaviours, is it the change of the family structure, lack of role models, inconsistencies to enforce rules, or is it that students are modeling the behaviours of their teachers. Can it be that the culture of schools is what is being reflected in society presently? Schools cannot on its own change the face of society but they can have a great impact on what is produce to bring about change. Schools need to adopt a more caring approach to education, they need to teach students and not the curriculum; schools need to work along with stakeholders to address the problem at hand. A school which adopts a health promoting approach towards education would ensure that administration, teachers and students needs are catered to and provide students with integrated and positive experiences to promote and protect their health (WHO,1996). WHO's Global School Health Initiative, launched in 1995, seeks to mobilizes and strengthen health promotion and education activities at the local, national, regional and global levels. The Initiative is designed to improve the health of students. It strives to improve the health of school personnel, families and community members as well as students, and works with community members to help them understand how the community contributes to health and education. The school curriculum would be tailored to match the practices of a health promoting school and include the implementation of the Health and Family Life Education. This programme aims to improve the wellbeing of individuals, ensure social adjustment, and involving learners in skills-based education, with the teaching of life skills the most important. The programme has four major themes; self and interpersonal relationships, sexuality and sexual health, eating and fitness and managing the environment. Self and interpersonal relationships is key to help deal with the present situation of crime and violence in society as it focuses on developing life-skills to build ones self-concept, and social skills to deal with conflict resolution, risk taking tendencies and destructive tendencies such as violence and drugs. These life-skills help enable individuals to deal with the demands and challenges of everyday life such as; solve problems, leadership, cope and manage with stress and to think critically among others. Students also learn how to effectively use language to communicate positively with others which is essential to all life skills Research in this area has shown that knowledge of these strategies is more likely to delay the onset of unacceptable behaviour. It is hoped that persons exposed to this programme will demonstrate high levels of awareness and self-esteem. It is hoped that this programme would produce individuals who are self-assured, confident, willing and able to endure peer pressure and become a contributing member of society. Schools can implement other strategies to help produce active and caring citizens, they need to have all stakeholders involved in decision making; students must be made to feel part of the decision making such as contributing to the rules of the schools. There is need for counseling sessions for students who demonstrate aggressive behaviour and sessions involving parents and students. Board affiliated school have a greater advantage in that they comprise 23 per cent of the primary system in Trinidad and Tobago ( John Spence, 2009) and can lead the way to reform the education system. Church and school need to work together to teach sound morals and values to our young people who will become the backbone of society. Teachers need to step up to the challenge as educators and work towards reducing the high levels of illiteracy and underachievement particularly in boys in our country. Each teacher should have as their goal; to reach each child at their level and take them higher. Lessons and strategies would have to cater to the different learning styles, draw on the previous knowledge and build on it. Special attention needs to be given to boys in the classroom to ensure that they are given the best opportunity to achieve success and are not overshadowed by the performance of the girls. Schools need to also integrate the use of the media in a positive light to assist in teaching life-skills in the classroom; films can be used in lessons to help make it more real and meaningful to students. The solution to crime and violence among young people lies mainly in the primary school; who is to break the cycle if not the school? Education today is calling for a particular kind of teacher one who has passion and is dedicated to the goal of producing well rounded, well educated, active citizens to be the backbone of society. Yes there are other agents in society responsible for teaching our children sound morals and value, however if they are failing in their duties the school must play a greater role in the socialization of the child. The school cannot change the violence and crime in society entirely but it can make a significant difference in the drive towards a solution and improving the lives of our young people.
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