Wed | Jul 8, 2020

Grabbing them young - First police youth club launched in early childhood institution

Published:Saturday | February 24, 2018 | 12:00 AMCarlene Davis
Head of the police Community Safety and Security Branch, acting Assistant Commissioner Steve McGregor, with one of the toddlers of the Sunshine Early Childhood Institution in Oracabessa, St Mary, during the launch of a police youth club at the school last week.

With the calls increasing for more uniformed groups in schools to tackle indiscipline among students and to help divert youths from a life of crime, the Ministry of Education and the police Community Safety and Security Branch (CSSB) are stepping up efforts to introduce more police youth clubs in these institutions.

Already 60 police youth clubs are active in primary and secondary schools, and last week Sunshine Early Childhood Institution in Oracabessa, St Mary, became the first early childhood institution with one of these clubs.

Director of the Safety and Security Programme in Schools, Assistant Superintendent Coleridge Minto, says even though the presence of police youth clubs in primary and secondary schools has been yielding results, research shows that some gangs start recruiting children as young as age eight, so it is important to reach those at the early-childhood level.

"Some studies speak to the first 1,000 days of a child's life as being very important, and so as part of the strategy the CSSB and the ministry, it was felt that we should expose children to a mini youth club at that level, so that by the time they become primary school students they would already be aware and they can continue on the programme," Minto told The Sunday Gleaner.

"When you start that engagement so early, the children become friends of the police, they associate themselves with them, and they grow up with the police, and so the distance would not be there between citizens and police," added Minto.

Psychiatrist, Professor Fred Hickling, has repeatedly called for more uniformed groups in schools. He argues that these groups have been of tremendous benefit to former and current participants, who have learnt core values that have made them more productive and well-rounded citizens.

"It creates a new family. It creates a new team, and a lot of these young people need the love and security of a group and team that we usually get in a family which, because of the problems we have been having with families in our society, a lot of children don't experience the camaraderie, the warmth and the sharing of working within a team," Hickling told The Sunday Gleaner early this year.