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'Kill the dragon!' - Youth parliamentarians call for action to end division in education

Published:Monday | November 14, 2016 | 12:00 AMJovan Johnson

Youth leader Keadar Sharpe has used the convening of the National Youth Parliament for the first time in seven years to demand that the Government provide structured psychosocial care to children in schools to curb crime and violence.

"This noble House must move urgently to implement a comprehensive integrated system of psychosocial care without any delay," the Young Philosophers representative told 73 other youth from diverse areas of national life yesterday. They were debating a motion for the provision of psychosocial care to children. "The lack of care has caused this country to earn herself a dragon but let us kill that ugly dragon called crime and violence."

According to him, the nation "is under siege and lacks the necessary care to upset the current state of affairs" and which, he said, is being fuelled by an education system built on division.

"This dragon feeds on the divide," the leader said, pointing to issues surrounding non-traditional and traditional schools. "She (dragon) likes to bring down Lady Jamaica in her fiery furnace. The education system should move to set up and adopt a system of psychosocial care, and in this system all members will be cared for. None will be pushed out because of any behavioural problems."

The Jamaican authorities may have adopted the wrong approach to tackling the deep-rooted lottery scam in St James, youth leader Keadar Sharpe believes.

"The police are tricked into feeling that they are the first police; it is the education system that is the first police," he said.

Youth parliamentarians agreed that setting up a network of psychologists to which schools can refer students for appropriate treatment would be a practical way of helping students who survive on criminality when sidelined.

"Why do we preach holistic development of our students but seldom provide programmes that do not only develop the academic and physically attributes of our students but also incorporate the psychosocial," argued Christina Williams, a National Youth Council of Jamaica representative.

Shajoe Lake, a University of the West Indies student ambassador, believes that implementing measures to support the psychological development of children would prevent teachers and parents from marginalising children.

"Detentions, suspensions and expulsions will not solve the problems. These are pacifiers, they are not solutions," he argued yesterday at the sitting of the National Youth Parliament at Gordon House.

Unemployment, climate change

Along with psychosocial care, the youth parliamentarians also debated and approved motions on youth unemployment and climate change.

Alnastazia Watson from the National Secondary Students' Council said a climate change action council run by youth would be one way of getting more youth involved in mitigation and adaptation efforts.

On the issue of unemployment, Iyoki Sargeant, who is blind, and Cristophe Phillips, who is deaf, lamented the difficulties members of the disabled community face.

They said a realignment of resources and a conscious effort by employers and institutions of higher learning are important in giving them equity and equality.

"Insufficient funds have been allocated for deaf education at the tertiary levels. Even in instances where a deaf person is able to afford tuition fees, there is no access to classroom lectures, and classroom participation is impossible because trained professional interpreters are not provided," he said through an interpreter, calling for additional public education campaign.

He also recommended the establishment of an internship programme using public-private partnerships to help members of the disabled community transition into the labour market.

The National Youth Parliament was established in 2003 to give youth an opportunity to use the legislature to speak on issues affecting their population. It is part of the activities marking November as Youth Month.