Yesterday, we told you about the CARICOM workshop to assist Belize's social sector to better understand and combat the trend of youths participating in Gang Activity.
It is a 3 day conference under the theme, "Youth, Gangs and Violence Partnering for Social Development and Crime Prevention."
The experts are here to discuss one of the most confounding problems of this era: the culture of youth and gang activity. And this afternoon 7News caught up with visiting Belizean social scientist, Dr. Carolyn Gentle-Genitty.
Gentle-Genitty is an assistant professor at the Indiana University's School of Social Work. She's been studying the link between youths who drop out of formal education, and their eventual pull toward gang life. She explained it briefly to us:
Carolyn Gentle-Genitty, Ph. D. - Assistant Professor, Indiana University
"To have a society that is a schooling dependent society. There is a anticipation that all children are going to go to school and they are going to do well and they are going to move on to better and brighter things. When that process is disruptive there is no true process for them to be re-engaged and often times we see that the dis-engagement happens at a time when there is nobody to supervise those kids and then they end up in an environment that we may seem as being deviant. Those deviants may lead to petty thief/petty stealing that would eventually get them to prison, but we also see them taking a route of gangs as an option. That's not necessarily the best route but as we examine our society we have to look at what avenues have we provided for students that have decided to step out of school."
"Second chance options are options. They have not yet been fully assessed for their ability to get the student back in school. You would have to figure out two things; one, do we simply want to engage them for a period of time and then let them go back to the regular society or do we want to re-engage them enough that they see a value in school enough to go back and therefore succeed and therefore become a productive citizen."
"I think when we look at second chance programs; there is an opportunity that we are not yet ceasing. When we talk about an opportunity based on what we covered today the idea of teaching decision making, the idea of teaching that I am responsible for me but I am also responsible for others in my society. There are no current programs or processes for students to get back if they drop out of middle school."
"In Belize we have a similar process; we have a lot of the ITVET programs that are allowing high school level age students to get back in but we have nothing for our primary school or elementary school students that are dropping out. What do we do with those students and that's where we are seeing a progression to crime, we are seeing a progression to gangs because they have nothing else to do and the parent is busy making a living. They are busy taking care of all the other kids. We just had a conversation talking about what happens between 3 and 5 when the kids are out of school and parents are still at work. Who is supervising them? One of the times when crimes are the highest often times between 3 and 5. We have a gap currently in our system that we believe through the Caricom Process and the Caribbean Community we can find a way to make those connections because we understand the problem across the Caribbean."
Dr. Gentle-Genitty has over 20+ years in the field of Youth Development. The CARICOM workshop concludes tomorrow.