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LETTER OF THE DAY - Bring the family back together

Published:Sunday | January 24, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

In order to curb crime in Jamaica, we must address the disintegration of the family. The breakdown of the family is the root cause of lawlessness.

Government can institute draconian anti-gang measures to assist the police in their fight against crime and prevent crime in the short term by locking up violent criminals so that they are no longer a danger to others. But it lacks both the capacity and competence to tackle the root causes of crime. That is the mission of three other basic institutions of society: the family, the Church and the school.

Family breakdown is a social and a moral catastrophe and is at the root of so many of the problems that beset our country. We are having a Jamaican culture meltdown and we need to instil respect for human life and neighbours in our children. Unless we act quickly and decisively, a bad situation will become dramatically worse. We have to take steps, and we do need programmes, to prevent, as best we can, the youth of today from becoming the chronic offenders of tomorrow.

Children at risk of misbehaviour

There are certain factors that indicate, for the most part, when children might be at risk of misbehaviour: children who are abused and neglected, children who are failing in school, and children who associate with other delinquents. So how do we combat that? We have to have caring and responsible adults who will take the time to deal with these children. We must give them academic support, leadership and character-development programmes, and enrichment and recreational activities.

I strongly believe that after-school programmes are important to the success of many Jamaican schoolchildren. They provide important academic support, role models and a fun and safe environment for students during the crucial hours after school. Studies show that students who participate in top-quality after-school programmes perform better academically and also like attending school more than their counterparts who do not participate in an after-school programme.

Good area of support

In addition to having adult role models at home and in school, the churches are always a good area of support. We need to make sure that our children continue to go to church. You are not born knowing right from wrong. We need to go back to the person sitting in the yard telling that young man or young woman, "You need to stop that!" We need to go back to those old-fashioned values and instil them in our children, and when they know right from wrong, they will do right.

President Barack Obama's wide-ranging speech on education in America touched on many issues, but none struck me more than this simple appeal to parents: "No government policy will make any difference unless we also hold ourselves more accountable as parents - because government, no matter how wise or efficient, cannot turn off the TV or put away the video games. Teachers, no matter how dedicated or effective, cannot make sure your child leaves for school on time and does their homework when they get back at night. These are things only a parent can do. These are things that our parents must do."

I am, etc.,

NEVILLE CARNEGIE

New Jersey