Sat | Dec 4, 2021

Letter of the Day | Good intentions but wrong observations, Dr Gayle

Published:Tuesday | April 9, 2019 | 12:00 AM

Open letter to Dr Herbert Gayle:



Dear Dr Gayle, I read your speech at the recent nutrition seminar at The Mico University College.

Great analysis and presumed prescriptive conclusions. Yes, I agree, all those factors you mentioned are contributing to Jamaica’s violence. But the fact is, the type of violence we are seeing in Jamaica now is far worse than it was in the 1966-1980 era. The factors perpetuating violence in Jamaica are far more complex than you are alluding to.

I grew up among poverty in Jamaica and have seen your “hunger” instances in both rural and Kingston areas. Lots of poor children went on to become very successful in careers, business and skilled trades and ensured that their children did not end up in persistent poverty despite the circumstances in which they were born.

Yes, Dr Gayle, the problem today is far more complex than nutrition. Your intentions are good, but a bit too isolated in the total picture of what drives crime in Jamaica.

What makes some youths from the same violent community succeed out of poverty and others ‘fail’ and move towards crime? Both types of youths experienced hunger, single motherhood, absent fathers and even domestic abuse. What are the differentiated factors? Study that and you may find some solution ideas.

May I suggest that your next article on the subject matter focus on the policy and practical solutions to the problem, not just analysis? Solutions such as public-private partnership changes in respectful behaviours and gratitude to our teachers, from infant schools to high schools.

Another solution: reintroduce in a serious, funded and directive way ‘trade training skills’ at the primary-school age level, as well as apprenticeships and co-op programmes at the high schools and tertiary schools.

At my rural primary school in the 1960s, I learnt four trade skills before going to high school. It can be done. It’s all about leadership, holding our ministers of education and training accountable, and providing resources to mentor and coach these young people in Jamaica.


These young people are watching what the leaders are saying, seeing and doing. No young person born in Jamaica, rural or urban, sets out to become a criminal. They have hopes, dreams, ambitions and capabilities to learn and lead productive lives in our God blessed country.

Another huge question: Are the training programmes for youths in Jamaica consistent with the current and future skills needed and work demands? Jamaica is a God-blessed country with lots of potential in our youth.

Let’s support and develop them and not feed them with excuses that because of poverty and nutrition issues, they have to turn to crime. It’s far more complex than that theory suggests.

Dr Gayle, you are headed in the right direction. I commend you for all the work you are doing towards the development of our nation. CRIME is the number-one problem in Jamaica, bar none!! The crime will eat our economic growth and development strategies for breakfast!!

The root causes need to be granularly identified and solutions persistently pursued, regardless of which party is in government. It must be treated as a non-partisan problem and issue, otherwise crime will persist. We owe sustainable solutions to the youths of our country.