Healing the hurt

During Monday’s Mini-Budget, Prime Minister the Hon. Mia Mottley put forward as one of government’s several proposals, the addition of social workers and guidance counsellors for seven secondary schools, to be hired for the next school year. This was described as the first stages of a wider programme to target more schools across the country.

Though the focus after the financial proposals earlier this week was turned more towards the national economy and crucial social services like health care and sanitation, this small aspect of the education sector is vital when one considers that the future of this country lies in its youth and there is a social responsibility to protect and uplift them wherever possible.

In the past there have been numerous incidences highlighted in the Press where youngsters act out violently in school fights, or demonstrate promiscuous and sexually explicit behaviour, all of which were captured on social media. There are also numerous cases of young adults who appear in this country’s Courts daily, charged with a litany of offences. All these individuals would have likely benefited from intervention from a social worker or guidance counsellor at an early age, who could have prevented them from slipping through the cracks.

This idea of early intervention of troubled youth in the school environment was touched on recently by Acting Principal of the Erdiston Teachers’ Training College, Dr. Patricia Saul. Speaking at a lecture on “Hurting Youth – Symptoms, Causes & Solutions”, she stated that rather than ascribe blame when youth manifest “anger, aggression, defiance, fighting, bullying, drug use and self-harm”, a “collaborative, multifaceted approach is needed”. Dr. Saul then indicated that the involvement of youths in groups like the Brownies, Guides, Scouts, Cadets or Key Club should be compulsory since they help to build character. “They are taught respect for self and others, responsibility, self-discipline. These are values that are not taught in some of our homes,” she said.

Expounding on the topic, she went on further to note that it is time that “schools have support groups and for programmes like the Juvenile Liaison Scheme and PAREDOS to be expanded to provide support for parents and develop initiatives to address the needs of young people outside of the justice system”. She added that these programmes should be started at the primary school level.

Clearly then it could be agreed that a lot of challenges facing the youth should be tackled from the primary stage and through schools, in addition to in the home.

It is also evident that there is a lack of proper role models and/or trained, skilled adults ready, willing and able to interject and help guide our youngsters into the upstanding citizens they have the potential to become. Therefore, the
introduction of more social workers and guidance counsellors should be praised as a step in the right direction, regardless of political affiliation. The suggestion that involvement in certain extra curricular clubs be made mandatory is also a
positive move.

In the final analysis, it is undeniable that many of the youth in this country are truly hurting and as their guardians we must do all we can to help alleviate their pain.

Barbados Advocate

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