Education to Fight Crime

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‘We believe proper values challenge a person to think critically, to make deliberate choices in order to achieve a life of dignity, well-being and purpose and in so doing create a more peaceful society’ – Caron Asgarali.

By Sue-Ann Wayow

IT’S especially important to address character building in young citizens now, in order to fix the haemorrhaging of the nation’s most valuable asset – the human resource.

Educator and founder of a non-profit organisation Caron Asgarali believes that emphasis on values education is needed now than ever as news of the gruesome murders of four people all under the age of 20 rocked Trinidad and Tobago last week.

Asgarali, a survivor of gun violence told AZP News, “I believe in the power of education – not schooling.”

Explaining the difference, she said, schooling, offered by the education system, involves mostly academics while education involves academics as well as character building, spiritual grounding and more.

Asgarali said, “True education equips individuals for life with tools to be resilient and resourceful, capable of dealing with good times and bad, with kindness and with cheerful dispositions. It prevents resorting to weapons for false courage.”

Last week, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said, “We cannot continue to spend our time in the classroom focused mainly on academics. Qualifications are critical, but equally critical is the character, the values, the behaviour and  the  attitude of our citizens.”  

Asgarali said the murders of Faith Peterkin, 10, Ariana Peterkin, 14, Shane Peterkin, 17, and Tiffany Peterkin, 19, and the injuries of others on the cusp of International Day of Peace, was a slap in the face to the state, national security, the Ministry of Education and other ministries and religious bodies.

“For our people, including the NGOs and individuals who work to build youth self-esteem and character, and provide services to guide them to becoming valuable resources to themselves, their families and their communities, that was pain,” she said.

Asgarali continued, “The fresh metallic odour of blood, for over a decade marked by high murder rates, should have awakened our senses and sensibilities. Had it done so, we would have been putting legislative, physical, educational, and spiritual measures in place actively since then.

“And with certainty, we can look toward a bloodstained future if we do not step-up programmes designed to educate the minds and character of our young people and the older ones too.”

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The Ministry of Education has a legal framework which to some extent explains the molasses-like response to calls for character education, she said. 

Asgarali’s organisation, Project RARE (Raising Awareness on the Ripple Effect of gun violence) advocates for peace, against gun violence and all forms of violence and teaches resilience-building skills.

Its character education programme includes resilience building and a values education video series, The ABCs of Values: Adding Value to All Lives by Adding Value to Your Life (one value, one letter, one person, one video). 

Asgarali said, “During our interactions with young people and sometimes older ones too, we found the greatest obstacle in the way to peaceful resolutions during conflict was being able to forgive. We have since added a forgiveness project in response to that need. 

“We believe proper values challenge a person to think critically, to make deliberate choices in order to achieve a life of dignity, well-being and purpose and in so doing create a more peaceful society. 

“Our people need urgent protection from horrendous crimes like the murder of those four children but it is especially important to address character building now to fix the haemorrhaging of our most valuable resource – the human resource.”


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