Anti-loitering campaign

first_imgFor many schoolchildren across Guyana, the closing bell does not necessarily mean that it is time to go home. For some, the after-school hours present the most dangerous time. One cannot deny that all manner of unsavoury things can occur when children and even teenagers are unsupervised. Mischief runs amok.Sometimes that mischief manifests itself in nuisance behaviour such as loitering around bus parks and businesses (particularly in the Stabroek Market area). Often this behaviour escalates into delinquent or criminal acts.A few months ago, the Education Ministry announced that as a result of a new initiative, Operation CARE (Collect, Advise, Respond and Educate), which has replaced other truancy campaigns, the truancy rate has decreased.This is indeed commendable; according to the news, the Schools’ Welfare Department has been conducting the campaigns once a week in all regions and the campaigns are guided by monthly reports on students’ attendance. While the initiative is focused primarily on Region Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) and Georgetown, it has proven effective in keeping children in school and ensuring that they are aware of the importance of attending.Additionally, under the CARE programme, the Schools’ Welfare Department has also been conducting weekly checks of bus parks and market areas for students, who should be in school during the prescribed hours. But one has to wonder if there is a programme to deal with the growing problem of loitering after school hours.There have been public calls for the Education Ministry to address this growing problem. While it may be on the extreme side to urge the Police Force to become involved and to arrest those found lingering after hours, many times such extreme actions are needed. Again, Facebook has become quite the popular medium for circulating footage of fights between schoolchildren, after school hours. The evidence is there for the world to see. There is also the likelihood that many of these children and young people are engaged in drug use and if not, they are exposed to persons who are using drugs.A pass along Croal Street (in the vicinity of the Kitty Bus Park) will reveal just how serious and potentially dangerous the problem is. It is worth noting that this is an area frequented by Police Officers and yet, the area is filled with young persons, in their school uniforms, long after school is out. At this time, these young people should be either at home or gainfully occupied. The time has long since passed for the implementation of a strict, long-term anti-loitering campaign.If this does not prove effective in keeping the young people off the streets then perhaps after-school programmes will keep them in school longer. It matters not what will work, but rather something must be done to ensure that our future generations are safeguarded against themselves. As it seems, we are already losing the fight.The hours after school, between 3 pm and 6 pm, offer opportunities for juvenile crime, sexual activity, and other risky behaviours such as drug and alcohol use. Research and evaluation studies have shown that participation in after-school programmes have a positive impact on juvenile crime and help reduce pregnancies, teen sex, and boys’ marijuana use (Goldschmidt, Huang, & Chinen, 2007; Philliber, Kaye, & Herrling, 2001; Philliber, Kaye, Herrling, & West, 2002).While after-school programmes have the potential to impact a range of positive learning and development outcomes, there are certain requirements that need to be met in order to maximise this potential. For instance, access to and sustained participation in the programmes, quality programming and staffing and strong partnerships among the programme and other places where students are learning, such as their schools, their homes, and other community institutions have proven effective.Research and evaluation studies have shown how complex a task it is to provide high-quality, effective support for youths and their families, but they also provide powerful evidence that after-school programmes do work when key factors are addressed. For the sake of our future generations, all involved parties need to act now.last_img

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