Fri | Sep 21, 2018

10-y-o gangsters - Specialist worried about high number of child thugs in schools

Published:Thursday | November 2, 2017 | 12:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin
Erica Allen, clinical intervention specialist at the Peace Management Initiative.
Walter Bernyck (left), head of development cooperation at the Canadian High Commission, and Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, head of the European Union Delegation to Jamaica, peruse the ‘New Reports on Violence against Children’, at the launch hosted by the United Nations Children’s Fund in collaboration with other stakeholders at the University of the West Indies, Mona, yesterday.

Some of Jamaica's 10-year-olds are not fully literate in numeracy and literacy, yet they already have a frightening command of how gangs operate and are replicating violent gangster behaviour in their primary schools.

This revelation was made by Erica Allen, clinical intervention specialist at the Peace Management Initiative, who spoke with The Gleaner yesterday following the launch of New Reports on Violence against Children, hosted by the United Nations Children's Fund in collaboration with other stakeholders at the University of the West Indies, Mona.

Allen said that while they are not wielding the knives and shooting guns, the juniors are quickly mimicking the behaviours of dons and are becoming products of the high level of violence that has been spiralling out of control across the country.

"The other day, we went to a school - this is a primary school - where there are eight-year-olds and 10-year-olds who are members of gangs already, boys, specifically. They are mimicking the behaviours that are present in the communities," she said.

"They are around young men who are in charge of groups of persons who carry out dangerous activities. They do not operate necessarily on the scale that occurs in the community, but you will have a group of boys between 10 and 12 who see themselves as being in charge. They will go around bullying or ordering other boys or encouraging other boys to join their groups. These are the boys who usually are always at the principal's office, or the guidance counsellor knows them."




Allen said that it would be wise to not only include high schools in violence-prevention programmes, but to start from the early childhood level, indicating that she wouldn't be surprised if there were pockets of aggressive behaviour at the basic-school level.

The clinical specialist also made an appeal to policymakers and leaders to ensure that schools are fully equipped with psychological support to meet the demand for help that is needed in schools.

"There is a school that has 2,000 children, two guidance counsellors, and a class has 45 children. The teacher is barely able to get through the lesson plan for the day, much less to offer any kind of support for a child that is in pain or a child that is experiencing something that is traumatic," she said.

"The volume of children makes it a giant task to address the issues that are impacting the children based on the level of violence we are experiencing in our society," Allen said.

"When we go into schools and say we want to help - we have a team of social workers and clinical persons who want to help - they are so happy because it is impossible for a guidance counsellor (with 1,600 kids in one school, and that is just one shift) and this one woman or man having to deal with all of this."