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MP wants harsh punishment for school burglars, vandals

Published:Friday | May 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter

NORTH WEST Manchester Member of Parliament Mikael Phillips said persons who break into schools or vandalised their property should face harsh punishments, arguing that the only way the country can be sustainably developed is through a foundation of proper education for our children.

Phillips, who was making his contribution to the 2014-2015 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives, referred to the perpetrators as scoundrels, and appealed to them to "think before you act".

He said "the penalty should be so great that he would never contemplate to commit that crime again".

Several schools have been the target of break-ins and vandalism, with sections of two in recent times being razed by fire. Last month, criminals broke in to Tacky High School in St Mary and set one block on fire before leaving. And in March, more than 90 students of Liberty Hill Primary School in St Ann had to be relocated to a new school after a section of the school was set on fire.

In the meantime, Phillips has welcomed the new policy of the education ministry to make technical subjects mandatory for all students in secondary school.

"Let us not fool ourselves; we all know the reason why this category is high because many are unemployable owing to not having a marketable skill," Phillips said, while arguing that the introduction of technical and vocational subjects in secondary schools will help in tackling the issue of persons leaving school without the basic requirement for further advancement.

"The approach being embarked on is now more critical as data is showing that, in 2013, there was a marginal decline of 3.1 per cent of persons accessing training through HEART Trust/NTA. Areas of major decline include agriculture (13.5 per cent), creative industries (40.8 per cent) and (ICT 6.4 per cent)," Phillips said, while adding that they are critical areas that can drive the entrepreneurial skills of young people.

Compulsory subjects

"What needs to be achieved is for it to be made compulsory that before students leave the secondary-school system in these skilled areas and others, students should be able to attain Level One and/or a Level Two certification from the HEART/NTA or any equivalent certification given by the Ministry of Education," the government backbencher said.

The first-time MP said, too, that the Government should consider the process by which students transition from Level One up to Level Four, adding that government data are showing that only a small number of students advance to levels three and four certification.

"It is only 6.6 per cent and 0.7 per cent, respectively of the total number of students enrolled to make that transition," Phillips said.

"If it is that we are going to compete globally, we need to ensure that persons attain the highest skill certification," the MP added.