Sun | May 16, 2021

Ronald Thwaites | Parenting, education and crime

Published:Monday | January 25, 2021 | 12:06 AM

I encountered Colvin in the police station downtown. I had gone there on a Friday afternoon to beg for the release of one of the scores of young men who were/are alleged to have done something wrong, or against whom some policeman has a grievance or annoyance and who are routinely locked up on a Friday; too late for any legal process and kept, intimidated and often beaten while ‘investigations’ are taking place.

Colvin was 14 years old. “Him doan have no fadda,” his mother told the district constable on duty, “an mi cyan manage him, so mi bring him fi you to hangle him before him turn bad”.

When I entered the guard room the policeman was obliging. He had Colvin, stripped of his pants, naked, behind a piece of wall, licking him mercilessly with a piece of board. Hear one of the big women who the boy’s screaming had attracted from the street: “Him fi get beatin yes, look how him ugly, lang buddy a stan up! Him a rude boy. Soon tun criminal. Jeezascrise!”

“Whey you a interfere fah, Missa Rany Twait? You a him fadda? You have money fi give mi fi mine him?” That was mother’s response to my pleas. “Lawyer, go back inna court wid you sweet mouth and come outa police business,” added the corporal who had come on the scene.

Please don’t try to tell me or yourself that this kind of thing is exceptional. My office backed on a police station for years and I know what I saw and heard.


Colvin came by a few years after asking for a job on a garbage truck, a farm work card or a site work. Anything. By then school had left him with no subjects, he sported a police record and two babymothers. Inevitable.

I remembered him last week when reading that shocking Observer editorial telling the truth about the bankruptcy of our crime- and violence-prevention efforts. I commend the editor for his bravery in writing and the newspaper for publishing it.

Provoked by the 25 murders over that weekend, the piece punctured the credibility of the state of emergency and preventive detention evangelists and advocated for society-wide collaboration to avert the national blood splurge.

The first way to do this is to stop spawning the Colvins of this society. No, not by murderously ripping them, the inconvenient consequences of self-indulgent sexual caprice, from their mother’s belly, but by promoting and insisting, as fervently as we are advocating NIDS, masks and low inflation, that women and men who make children (both, not just one) have a supreme moral, legal and civic responsibility to love, care for and discipline their offspring.

Too sensitive, too intrusive, too countercultural you think as you read. It can’t be. It isn’t. It’s the only way to begin to curtail the barbarity. And it is the duty of the State and those who lead government or who are in positions of influence, to promote the right values and craft a socially viable economy which provides opportunity for families, not just sex partners or accidental parents, to stay together and raise youths who will not be victims of cruelty and failure like Colvin, or become recruits to the ever-expanding number of gangs.

Anything less on the part of our rulers, especially in this week after Martin Luther King’s memorial, renders the titles, the preferments and the front seats at everything, mere conceit and self-indulgence.


Do we even see the connection between parenting and crime. What are the signs that we even want to?

Then there is the influence of schooling on positive behaviour and good life choices. It is good that money is being found to provide more tablets for students. But even if every student had an instrument, adequate connectivity and required home supervision, this could not make up for the social and academic deficit being experienced since last March and, indeed, from long before.

Right now we are kicking the proverbial can of low performance up the escalator to failure. If the schools can’t all reopen full-time safely yet, please find a way to get the breakfast and lunch rations to the children.

Bring them in in batches at least three days a week. Think of it, the first- and seventh-graders have yet to know their school compounds and meet peers and teachers face-to-face. In the gap of no classes, they are learning things we don’t want them to know.

When the children come, check the effective parentage of each one. Where at least one able and caring adult who really checks for that child is missing, call upon the churches to provide consistent mentoring support.

In the taking-too-long-to-implement programmes of continuing professional development for all teachers, emphasise social analysis and emotional literacy skills so that classroom teachers can better respond to the serious challenges their students will exhibit or, more dangerously, try to hide. And give principals the resources to respond immediately to the critical needs of their charges.

Enabling our schools to prevent dropouts and teenage parenting; redoing a lost academic year; banishing social promotion; making provision for schools to supplement inadequate home situations, will, in short order, be more effective in reducing crime than the reliance of mere repression which the Observer correctly calls bankrupt.

Finally, ask yourselves this. Given the amount of time lost since March, and continuing, what could be the justification of continuing with the usual, long summer holiday this year?

If we really want to get a handle on the crime and violence which, apart from the personal suffering, is costing us more than S100 billion worth of productivity every year, check out the link between parenting, education and crime.

Rev Ronald G. Thwaites is an attorney-at-law. Send feedback to