Azille says reopened Boys’ Training School must be part of comprehensive rehab plan that involves all social agencies

The principal of the Clare Hall Secondary School, Ashworth Azille, says he is yet to hear a comprehensive plan from the Government about its intention to reopen the Boys’ Training School in the effort to quell youth violence. 

Reportedly, the resuscitation of the Training School formed part of the Cabinet’s discussion on youth at its February 15 meeting.

Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs Steadroy “Cutie” Benjamin and Minister of Education Daryll Matthew supposedly addressed the issue of increased violence among youth – which has resulted in fights among students and the breaching of school property by thieves and vandals, causing thousands of dollars in loss and damage.

While the law addressing the treatment of youth offenders – the Child Justice Act, 2015 – is already in place, the Cabinet says it will ensure that the Boys’ Training School receives the attention it needs to be brought back on stream shortly.  

Reports says this is to ensure there is a space to restrain those youth who are intent on creating mayhem.

However, Azille says, the solution is not simply to have a place to house delinquent young people. Rather, a comprehensive programme for reformation should be put in place, so they can once again contribute positively to nation-building.

The Cabinet has noted that these “wayward” youth who find themselves involved in violent incidents lack certain social skills.  Therefore, it says, emphasis will be placed on teaching those skills to the Training School residents once the facility becomes operational again, the Executive says.

It is hoped that creating a more favourable atmosphere to facilitate rehabilitation will reap benefits for the residents’ future prospects.

The Boys’ Training School – which was the country’s main penal institution for youth aged 12 to 18 years – had closed its doors in 2020 at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, even before that time, magistrates had stopped sending young offenders there, due to the unacceptable living conditions and claims of abuse of the residents.

Ironically, only last year, Minister of Social Transformation Dean Jonas made claims that the institution was being refurbished and transformed into a modern care facility.  However, an investigation by REAL News reporter George Wehner proved his statement to be untrue.

Meanwhile, Azille says that parents need to take note of the strong influence that social media has on the lives of their children.

While social media, essentially, is not a bad thing, he says its negative content often finds its way onto many sites and creates issues.

Accordingly, Azille says, the time has come for parents to play a more active role and monitor what their children do, and who they associate with, since most of their time is spent on electronic devices – whether phones, tablets or computers.

According to the principal, no one person has all the answers to the issues impacting our young people.  Therefore, he says, it is going to take a consolidation of all the social agencies to tackle this worrisome issue of youth violence.

If the country is not swift and strategic about this, he warns, it may lose a whole generation.