Fitzgerald Hinds

Akash Samaroo

There was heavy criticism for the Ministry of Education at a Joint Select Committee (JSC) yesterday.

The ministries were brought before the committee to explore methods to combat crime and to circumvent its impact on vulnerable youth.

However, around 42 minutes into the hearing, chairman Fitzgerald Hinds showed the first signs of frustration.

He said, “I just want to say that I’ve listened to the answers to the very pertinent questions asked by the members of this committee and without any untoward implication, I find the answers a bit glib and a bit brisk.”

Acting chief education officer Lisa Henry-David sought to defend the ministry.

“Mr chairman my officers’ answers were from the heart and not glib,” she said.

The Education Ministry said it had 256 guidance officers and 142 school social workers for all the schools in the country.

Hinds believed those numbers aren’t enough to assess the magnitude of the behavioral problems in the education system.

It wasn’t the only time the ministry was accused of not understanding the gravity of an issue.

When questioned about gang activity and gang violence in primary and secondary schools, school work specialist Natalie Robinson-Arnold said the responsibility of making those classifications falls under the remit of the Police Service. It again drew criticism from Hinds.

“I am not sure if the Ministry of Education is appreciating the severity or the magnitude of the tsunami that is coming down on us and has been coming down for some time,” he said.

The Education Ministry did outline plans for a National Family Policy which will go to Cabinet in the next few weeks to be approved for consultation and how the National Child Policy will help in keeping students away from crime. But JSC member Paul Richards did not believe that was enough.

He said, “Without casting any aspersions and understanding the chairman’s seeming frustration, all I am hearing is working closer, strategic policy, finalising policy, engaging partners, stronger collaboration, improving resilience wonderful policy statements, there is absolutely nothing today to test effectiveness, Dr Moonilal asked for data, I asked for data. How will we know if these policies should be amended or changed?”

Yesterday’s JSC was the soxth of its kind exploring National Security matters.