The Government of The Bahamas will move quickly to address the increasing rate of school drop-outs and the declining levels of educational attainment, especially amongst young boys within the Commonwealth of The Bahamas.
Minister of National Security, Dr. Bernard J. Nottage, said there is an “acknowledged correlation” between declining educational achievement and increasing levels of violence in society.
Dr. Nottage warned, however, that not every young man who drops out of the school system is “uneducated.” He said some of those who are falling into gang activities are “intelligent young men” who bring a form of organisation to the street gangs.
“Leaving school without the requisite skills and abilities increases the likelihood of youth exposure to, and experience of, other risk factors including higher levels of unemployment, teen pregnancy, risky sexual activity and substance abuse which contribute to other problem behaviours among youth,” Dr. Nottage said.
“The early departure of boys from school also contributes to male-on-male violence,” Dr. Nottage added.
Addressing the Opening Session of a Regional Workshop on a National Consultation on Youth Crime and Violence, which opened at the Paul H. Farquharson Conference Centre Tuesday, Dr. Nottage told Caribbean delegates attending the workshop the drop-outs have occurred despite there being universal access to education at the primary level in The Bahamas, and the fact that young people have “good access” to education at higher levels.
The Workshop on Youth Crime and Violence is being held simultaneously with an Anti-Gang Workshop that opened September 24 at the Paul H. Farquharson Centre.
Citing a Caribbean Human Development Report, Dr. Nottage said young people are becoming more vulnerable to recruitment into vibrant, illegitimate economies (criminal enterprises) fuelled by gangs because of the lack of legitimate socio-economic opportunities.
Dr. Nottage said the computer/internet, digital and cellular age, have brought changes to the faces of crime and have ushered in a new generation of “technologically astute” young offenders.
“The assumption is that the largest offending demographic will continue to be young males between the ages of 15-25. This at-risk group continues to grow, as a strong, male presence is notably absent from the home and the only role models available to these disenfranchised youth, are gangster movie heroes and the stars of rap, reggae and rock,” Dr. Nottage said.
“New, materialistic images portrayed by surrogate parents from film, television and music are reaching the youth during their formative years, resulting in increased delinquency and criminal behaviour amongst the young people.”
Dr. Nottage said the Government plans to attack the gang culture by exposing Bahamian youth — many of whom are drawn to the culture at a young age — to a series of positive activities through the re-establishment of the Urban Renewal Programme.
“With the implementation of Urban Renewal 2.0, our young people will be exposed to those activities that would result in the proper development of the future of our nation,” Dr. Nottage said.
“Character building blocks such as hard work, motivation, discipline, respect for the property of others, nurturing, role modelling, and mentorship are but a sample of what we endeavour to see in those who are a part of the various Urban Renewal programmes.
“We cannot afford to lose a generation to crime and the lawlessness that it produces. Similarly, we will not allow the future of this country to be shaped by those whose intention is to create fear, injury and pandemonium in the society,” Dr. Nottage added.
By Matt Maura
Bahamas Information Services