St James cri­sis: ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions re­spond

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION & COMMENTARY - Ros­alea Hamil­ton Ros­alea Hamil­ton, PhD, is Project Direc­tor, Fi Wi Ja­maica Project and Vice-Pres­i­dent, Com­mu­nity Ser­vice and De­vel­op­ment, Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Ja­maica. Email feed­back­to­columns@glean­ or ros­alea­hamil­

WITH ABOUT 200 mur­ders in the past nine months, St James is fac­ing a cri­sis of ex­plod­ing crim­i­nal­ity that de­mands outof-the-box think­ing. Thought lead­ers in the ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions lo­cated in the west are re­spond­ing to what is likely to be an epic cri­sis for St James and Ja­maica if not re­solved in a way that can en­able long-term, sus­tain­able out­comes.

Com­mis­sioner of Po­lice Dr Carl Wil­liams, in re­spond­ing to calls for a state of emer­gency, is cor­rect in not­ing that the deep-seated prob­lems un­der­ly­ing the crime wave in the parish of St James are so­cial prob­lems re­quir­ing so­cial so­lu­tions.

The long-term, sus­tain­able so­lu­tions are in­deed so­cial, in­clud­ing eco­nomic. The most im­por­tant and en­dur­ing so­cial so­lu­tions are ed­u­ca­tional. An­a­lysts have long es­tab­lished that ed­u­ca­tion is cen­tral to shap­ing long-term, sus­tain­able so­cial and eco­nomic so­lu­tions. Fifty-two years ago, No­bel Prize econ­o­mist Arthur Lewis writ­ing in The Gleaner on Septem­ber 11, 1964, stated: “Noth­ing is more im­por­tant to Ja­maica’s long-run prospects. An econ­omy which has few nat­u­ral re­sources has to live by its wits. Ed­u­ca­tion is Ja­maica’s best in­vest­ment.”

So ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions, with a core man­date of pro­vid­ing higher ed­u­ca­tion, have a cen­tral role to play in in­flu­enc­ing Ja­maica’s long-run prospects. It is there­fore note­wor­thy that over the past few years, nine ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions in the west have been col­lab­o­rat­ing to strengthen their core ed­u­ca­tion man­date. Un­der the lead­er­ship of Pa­trick Pren­der­gast, act­ing direc­tor, UWI Mona West­ern Ja­maica Cam­pus, they have pledged to the for­ma­tion and es­tab­lish­ment of the As­so­ci­a­tion of West­ern Ja­maica Ter­tiary In­sti­tu­tions (AWJTI) as a “re­spon­sive agent of change in west­ern Ja­maica com­mit­ted to pro­mot­ing and build­ing com­mu­ni­ties of ex­cel­lence through ad­vanced ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing of adult learn­ers in re­sponse to global chal­lenges”.

At a re­cent AWJTI meet­ing on Septem­ber 21, 2016, it was agreed that more in­for­ma­tion should be shared among the ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions to en­able more ef­fec­tive col­lab­o­ra­tion on ex­ist­ing as well as newly de­fined ini­tia­tives to tackle the prob­lems in St James. Given the na­ture and scale of the prob­lem, the ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions are also col­lab­o­rat­ing with govern­ment agen­cies as well as the com­mu­nity-based or­gan­i­sa­tions and non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions in the St. James In­ter­A­gency Net­work (SJIAN) that are at the fore­front of tack­ling the prob­lems. The SJIAN is cur­rently pur­su­ing an am­bi­tious plan to proac­tively en­gage ap­prox­i­mately 3,500 highly at-risk youths from across St James. Im­por­tantly, the plan builds on lessons learnt from in­ter­ven­tions such as the Cit­i­zen Se­cu­rity and Jus­tice Pro­gramme’s Goals For Life in 2011 and the So­cial De­vel­op­ment Com­mis­sion’s Bring Back The Love in 2015. Among other things, the plan seeks to fo­cus on in­ter­ven­tions to ad­dress school dropout, de­liv­er­ing psy­cho-ed­u­ca­tional life skills ses­sions to par­tic­i­pants and link­ing par­tic­i­pants with coun­selling, men­tor­ing, vo­ca­tional & re­me­dial train­ing and em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties. Ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions are well placed to de­liver these ed­u­ca­tional ser­vices and more.

Through their com­mu­nity out­reach arm, the ‘ivory tower’ im­age must now be trans­formed into the ‘peo­ple’s place’ where or­di­nary Ja­maicans can find real, prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions to the prob­lems they face.

This has been the mo­ti­va­tion be­hind the USAID-funded Fi Wi Ja­maica project cur­rently be­ing ex­e­cuted by the Divi­sion of Com­mu­nity Ser­vice & De­vel­op­ment at the Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy, Ja­maica.

Among other things, it seeks to ad­dress the vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties of women/girls who are likely to be vic­tims of crimes such as hu­man traf­fick­ing and do­mes­tic/in­ti­mate part­ner vi­o­lence. In ad­di­tion to pro­vid­ing in­for­ma­tion to build aware­ness about these crimes, the Fi Wi Ja­maica project is tak­ing pro-ac­tive steps in pro­vid­ing en­trepreneur­ship and skills train­ing to em­power at-risk women and girls. In col­lab­o­ra­tion with the SJIAN and other ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions in the west, this ini­tia­tive will be up­graded and ad­justed to meet the needs of about 80 women from sev­eral vo­latile com­mu­ni­ties in St James this month. This and other ini­tia­tives will be de­signed over the next few months in re­sponse to the spi­ralling mur­ders tak­ing place in St James.

Now more than ever, strate­gic col­lab­o­ra­tion, bring­ing ‘all hands on board,’ is nec­es­sary to tame the crime mon­ster in St James.

There is no doubt that the long-term, sus­tain­able so­lu­tions in­clude ed­u­ca­tion and, there­fore, ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions must play a piv­otal role. How­ever, even with the ed­u­ca­tion of at-risk youths, there is no sim­ple so­lu­tion to find­ing al­ter­na­tives to the lu­cra­tive in­comes be­ing cre­ated from scam­ming and re­lated crimes.

This will be one of the ma­jor chal­lenges fac­ing ter­tiary in­sti­tu­tions in their timely and much-needed re­sponse to the cri­sis in St James.

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