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WE ARE BREEDING CRIMINALS

CAROL MATROO Tuesday, April 18 2017

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BEHAVIOUR change consultant Franklyn Dolly is calling for immediate steps to be taken to address how children with behavioural challenges are dealt with in the school system. He says failure to do so will result in schools continuing to breed “criminals.” In an interview with Newsday, Dolly said every teacher, after five years of teaching, should be able to predict what would happen to any one of their students. He said this was something that they did not have to be taught.

“It is easy to give good news to the parents,” Dolly said. “It is easy to tell parents that because a child is not doing well they should get them in a particular sport or activity.

Parents like to hear that.

What teachers are not skilled in is how to give bad news to a parent who loves their child. They either do it badly, or they avoid doing it.

“When parents are told their child has a challenge and they need to get some sort of assessment, those who can afford it will get the assessment done. Those who cannot afford it would be referred to guidance clinics from the Students Support Services (SSS) in order to get an assessment, and they would get that appointment two years from now. The parent now feels frustrated by the system, the child and teacher are frustrated so they all clash, meanwhile the child is getting worse.” He said the teacher’s solution would be to avoid having that child being in their class to protect the other children and therefore leave the child out of hearing distance where the child was not even learning.

“That child is becoming more frustrated, but I am protecting those other 25 to 30 children.

That child gets put out and there is no system in the school that allows children who are having those challenges to get any kind of behavioural assistance,” Dolly said.

He said a school councillor may come in every two weeks, conduct a 40-minute session with the child and send the child back to the class.

“There is very little help. If we set up one area in the district where the children could be referred to after they get their diagnosis, a place where the care givers can manage them and then maybe we can get somewhere.

“There are some people who are willing to take over the role of the psychologist at a reduced rate to help out, There is a lot of paper work involved and I do not think the Ministry of Education is doing much of that now,” he said.

Dolly said there are several organisations which may be willing to assist with this issue, the problem though, was that they were not paid until six to nine months later.

“But, we must have a social conscience.

We are breeding these criminals, I will call them that for now, in our school systems.

If we set up in our catchment areas where the children could be referred to after they get the diagnosis, because there needs to be some kind of holding bay so the parents know how to manage them, that can help.

“If I have behavioural issues since I was six years old, by the time I reach 15 and nothing was done to help me, do you know the kind of monster I am? I don’t know why I’m getting on so and I may end up in prison or worse,” he warned.

Dolly said the world was growing at such a fast pace that by the age of 11 or 12, children were forced to get into a secondary school.

“I am a little slower than the average child. I really need to be 15 to get to that point, but socially they are telling me I have to go along with my age group. I am placed in an environment that is hostile to me. If I was a girl, I would find a man, if I am a boy, I would find a girl.

“It is all about certification. I don’t care whether you are educated or not, once you have the certification, you are okay in this society.

There is hope and the hope is that teachers can identify very early the children who are at risk in their schools. They don’t have to invent that, they are good at it.” Former education minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh said while teachers were not trained to that depth that a psychologist would be trained, a teacher would, from just having them on a daily basis, be able to pick up on problem children.

“It calls for management skills, deep introspection, research work that has brought about significant findings. We are drifting down into micro aspects, but the overall approach and the policies and programmes that this team ought to be utilising and implementing has to be broad-based,” he said.

Gopeesingh said there were 23 areas where the Ministry of Education has not been able to implement the programmes, and in fact have curtailed a significant amount of them which would undoubtedly reduce the incidence of school violence.

Gopeesingh said the SSS has been depleted.

“The particular officers who they call social workers have not been paid. Their contracts have come to an end, they have not been renewed. We had educational behavioural clinical psychologists in schools, that aspect has been curtailed. We ensured that we developed a number of programmes, school safety officers, school-based management team, the local school board, the after school homework centres, the alumni association of schools, a circle of hope once a week in a classroom...

“The minister (Anthony Garcia) and his colleague (Dr Lovell Francis) seem to be adrift in the Ministry of Education, and they lack the competence and the ability to move the process forward in education. I have called for his removal on about 15 different occasions and it is left up to the Prime Minister (Dr Keith Rowley) now to do what is appropriate. The minister obviously cannot handle the Ministry of Education. They have reversed a number of programmes and policies that we had implemented,” he said.

Gopeesingh said the former government had implemented a programme whereby every teacher in every classroom would identify the difficult students, who would then be referred immediately to the SSS.

He said the student’s analysis was based on their professional approach which would determine the causative for the student’s indiscipline whether it was emotional, behavioural or psychological, or a medical disorder.

“For every student in every class across the country, the teachers, principals, vice principals and deans were mandated to identify these children and begin an amelioration process for all of these students.

“It should be picked up how many difficult students we have in the schools at the moment. The groups ought to be managing the students with the parents. We have also conducted a number of parenting and education workshops across Trinidad and Tobago.

We should not just send messages to the parents, but also have workshops in the areas inviting all the parents and teachers to begin to discuss the issues surrounding their children,” Gopeesingh said.



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