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Lamb: Problem students don’t get support

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Tackling issue: moderator Dwayne Caines (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

Problematic students are being allowed to slip through the cracks of the education system, leading them down antisocial paths in later life, Lieutenant-Colonel Eddie Lamb, the Commissioner of Corrections, has claimed.

Speaking yesterday at the International Colloquium on Black Males in Education, Colonel Lamb said that inmates at Westgate Correctional Facility had shared similar stories with him on their early years at school.

“They told me that in P1, they were labelled a troublemaker and separated from the herd,” he said.

“They carried that label all the way through primary school, and by the time they got to middle school they had lost interest.”

Colonel Lamb said that, while the “vast majority” of Bermuda’s teachers are passionate and capable, too many were extinguishing youngsters’ desire to learn.

“A child is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled,” he said, quoting the Greek philosopher Plutarch, “and there are too many teachers putting out fires.”

Colonel Lamb sat on a five-man panel yesterday lunchtime at the colloquium, which is taking place at The Fairmont Southampton until tomorrow.

Also sharing their views on the institutionalisation of young black males in Bermuda were Llewellyn Simmons and Radell Tankard from the Ministry of Education, community activist Anthony Webb and Jonathan Ball from the Pembroke Hamilton Club. Dwayne Caines from the Bermuda Police Service chaired the discussion.

Among the topics covered were the lingering effects of Bermuda’s colonial past, the lack of paternal influence in the lives of young black males and the role of sports clubs in shaping productive citizens.

Mr Webb suggested that the island’s social problems were a “direct result” of a lack of father figures in black communities, while Mr Ball said that sports clubs needed to adopt a broader focus when it came to their athletes’ wellbeing.

“It makes no sense to develop good footballers or cricketers if we’re creating menaces to society,” he said.

“For me, it’s about developing the complete athlete — someone who can be productive in this community.”

One panel towards the end of the evening spoke to how broken parental relationships can effect the young black community.

Donna Outerbridge, director of client services at the Coalition for the Protection of Children had her own experiences with a broken relationship with the father of her child. “There are lots of single parents,” she said. “The father maybe absent because he was killed or he is incarcerated or he is simply absent because mom didn’t have a good relationship with him.

“There are a range of different issues and they play out in school. Sometimes people don’t understand what they are going through. When I see that I try to encourage them to find possible role models.”

Ms Outerbridge said it was important for parents to have conversations with their children and allow them to express their feelings and even write them down.

Dwight Jackson, educator and football coach, said much of the problem is a lack of self-belief. “For me the challenge and solution is to have belief in self,” he told the audience. “For all the males in the room, your relationship with the mother of your children is no excuse for your relationship with your child.

“In the black community, we are making too many excuses. My parents separated at 14. We can’t let it determine our future.”

Prison talk: Lieutenant-Colonel Eddie Lamb, Commissioner of Corrections (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Hoping for change: the Institutionalisation of Young Black Males in Bermuda panel Lieutenant-Colonel Eddie Lamb, Radell Tankard, Llewellyn Simmons, Jonathan Ball and Anthony Webb (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
Jonathan Ball