CSJP breaking link between unemployment and crime in inner city
(Contributed by the Jamaica Information Service)
“Hanging around like the clock on the wall,” is the analogy used by Pleasant Heights (Wareika Hill) resident, Randy Anderson, to describe the sense of inertia many inner city youth feel.
However, the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP) is helping to change this, going beyond just enabling persons to acquire skills, to assist inner city youth to enter professional fields.
For example, Randy Anderson, who was hopelessly scouring the papers a few years ago for a job, is now halfway through his Bachelor of Science degree in International Shipping and Logistics at the Caribbean Maritime Institute (CMI) with the help of the CSJP.
Trench Town’s Dr. Claudia Allen has become the first medical doctor in her family, having graduated in 2008 from the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, with the help of the CSJP.
Dr. Allen and Randy are just two of the 1,800 tertiary and high school students from inner city communities across the Kingston Metropolitan Area, Westmoreland and St. James who have benefitted from educational assistance under the CSJP’s thrust to fight crime and violence in inner cities, using education.
The CSJP is a multi-faceted crime and violence prevention initiative of the Ministry of National Security, focusing on building community safety and security. The programme is now in its second phase (CSJP II), having completed the pilot in 2009.
Programme Manager for CSJP II, Simeon Robinson, notes that youth aged 14 to 24 years are both victims and perpetrators of crime, and it is imperative that they are engaged, rehabilitated and resocialised.
“This investment by CSJP II, a crime prevention unit, simply aims to break the nexus between crime and unemployment..through our nine years of work on the ground, we have learnt that an uneducated person is largely unemployable, and an unemployable person can more easily be diverted into dysfunctional behaviour,” he explains.
Randy knows only too well the state of mind that despair can trigger. He describes his sense of hopelessness as he recognised that to get a job he needed education, which he was unable to afford.
“Sunday after Sunday, the routine of skipping the pages of the [newspaper] seeking jobs and preparing job applications had gotten depressing, because my efforts appeared futile. I was willing to get what the employers required, but my relatives couldn’t afford to send me to college,” he relates.
He tells JIS News he started a computer course at a community college, but was unable to complete it, because of financial problems. After another year of sitting at home, he says his uncle introduced him to the CSJP.
“I truly thank the CSJP for granting me access to a better life. I will certainly make the best of it and open the eye of the inner-city youth to see that there is still hope for a better education,” Randy says. He hopes that one day he will also be able to emulate the CSJP by helping other inner-city youth to finance their education.
Dr. Allen is similarly grateful, as she was struggling to finance her educational ambitions when the CSJP stepped in. She recounts that she was working and studying but that, after a while, it became extremely challenging, as her course became more time consuming.
Growing up in Trench Town, Kingston, the daughter of two educators, she says she was always taught the value of hard work and education. However, the CSJP gave her the push to achieve her dream.
“Being from the community of Trench Town, it could have been so easy for me to be a part of the ever-increasing demographic that is either churning out babies, or being a part of violence or some such thing,” Dr. Allen says.
She praises the CSJP for helping to foster a better relationship between the security forces and the community, at a time when distrust of the police is high among inner-city residents.
Dr. Allen works at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH), delivering care to the nation’s sick. She acknowledges that while she still has a far way to go towards self-actualisation, “at least I have a skill that I can support myself, I am not dependent on anyone and I can support my family. So I am really grateful”.
On the outside, Doneilo Thomas looks like the stereotypical inner city ‘corner’ youth. But, while he sports his plaits, Doneilo has a different agenda. Instead of hanging idly around, each day he makes his way to the UWI, Mona, where he is a first-year medical student.
He too is a beneficiary of a CSJP scholarship. Doneilo says he heard about the CSJP, through the youth club in his community of Nannyville Gardens in Mountain View, St. Andrew. A past student of Camperdown High School, he says his earliest ambition was to become an architect, but that he fell into the natural sciences and grew to love that field. His dream is to become a neurosurgeon.
He tells JIS News he was “overwhelmed” when he heard the CSJP had granted his request for a scholarship, and praises the CSJP for having faith in inner-city youth. He believes the CSJP is on the right track in using education as a violence- prevention tool.
“Once someone has their time occupied, they have something positive to do, like schooling, there will be no time for idleness.and the more educated people you have in Jamaica, it will be the more productive the nation can become,” he posits.
Doneilo is urging Jamaicans not to give up on inner city youth, as they too have the potential to become productive citizens. “Give them a chance. I feel they will take the chance with both hands,” he says.