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‘We have to catch them at the primary level’

Chang says collaboration at early childhood stage necessary to curb violence involving youth

Published:Saturday | May 18, 2024 | 12:09 AMRochelle Clayton/Staff Reporter
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang speaking at the Inter-Ministerial School Support Retreat at Iberostar Hotel in St James on Friday.
National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang speaking at the Inter-Ministerial School Support Retreat at Iberostar Hotel in St James on Friday.


National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has indicated that plans are in place to collaborate with both early childhood institutions and primary schools to curb violence involving the nation’s youth.

Dr Chang, who was speaking at the Inter-Ministerial School Support Retreat on a multi-agency response to violence in schools in western Jamaica yesterday, pointed out that major efforts are needed to impact the minds of young people before they are tainted by negative factors.

“My own constituents tell me, ‘Dr Chang, you cannot seek to reach them at high school, dem gone’.”

The minister further emphasised that the emergence of youths involved in lottery scamming also poses a threat.

“When you give a 15-year-old the power we give them today, we don’t have the social development to manage them. A 15-year-old child who is in scamming has enormous power.

“They buy cars for their family, their girlfriend, their friends, they buy guns for the little boys around them, and they now move with a certain level of impunity. It is hard for a principal or any social worker to control such a person, so we have to catch them at the primary school.”

While noting that yesterday’s retreat was geared towards principals and other stakeholders at 18 western-based schools that have “identifiable challenges ... relating to violence”, Dr Chang said that the Government is aware and committed to assisting these institutions with this “national issue”.

He further pointed out that there are many factors behind the issues being faced in schools and highlighted that many educators sometimes “get the end result of the failure”.

“You are not the cause of the failure,” he said.

At the same time, Dr Chang pointed out that many schools in the western region have made headline news in recent weeks for violence involving school.

He said that “some good work” has been done at the Grange Hill High School in Westmoreland, after grade 10 schoolboy, 16-year-old Carson Barrett, was shot and killed on April 25, on his way home from sports day.

The minister also noted that Joseph Williams, principal at St James High, has also been in the line of fire over the last month after a Sunday Gleaner article revealed that two girls were expelled from the school after a two-second video of them kissing was shared on WhatsApp. Since the initial story was published, other parents have come forward to state that their children, too, were dismissed from the school.

“There is no question that he has done good work in the school. He may have his peculiar ways but everybody in leadership have different styles,” observed Dr Chang

Speaking to reporters after his presentation, Dr Chang underscored the importance of a multi-agency approach to developing the mind of the younger children. He also explained that it is necessary to partner with early childhood institutions and build relationships with children at that stage.

“I think there is a recognition that we have to approach the management of our children in a different manner, and we have to engage them at a younger stage. And that is where we are heading now.

“If you’re going to get to our children at that level, we want to work with some of these basic schools and also broaden the involvement of official infant schools where the staff is fully paid by the Government; and we provide other supporting services in a very systematic way for our small children,” Dr Chang stated.

“If that is done, we are more likely to stay on a straighter productive path.”