Walter Stewart –
NEW National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA) president Walter Stewart says the association intends to introduce a national parenting programme – as part of its 16-point plan – to help reduce crime and violence in the society.
Stewart, who was elected NPTA president on November 11 at the association’s conference of delegates, believes such a programme is critical given the increasing incidence of violent crime and other forms of anti-social behaviour among young people.
Referring to last Friday’s incident at the Signal Hill Secondary School, Tobago, in which a group of girls assaulted another female student, he said, “If you look around at what is taking place, the recent incident at Signal Hill that was trending and you look at the crime, violence, murder, there is need for a serious look at our parenting systems and programmes.”
Stewart believes the organisation has a responsibility to ensure there are programmes for parents, particularly expectant mothers.
He told Newsday, “Many of us who are parents, we did not become parents and had a handbook or a manual within which to scrutinise and see how to become a good parent.
“Many of us learnt from our parents, our parents’ parents, uncles, aunts. But the NPTA has a responsibility to ensure that that the mother who is going to the clinic – even at that stage – we have a responsibility to meet with these would be parents and school them, encourage them to ensure that the raising of the child is of paramount importance and they know that they have a responsibility to nurture this child.”
Stewart said the programme, which will incorporate several ministries and stakeholder organisations, will be implemented across the country “to ensure that our parents can become better parents.”
The NPTA, he said, is also planning a crime march.
“We have to let the nation know we abhor the present state of the nation by bringing out thousands of our parents on the streets of Port of Spain to let the nation know that crime is everybody’s business and we have to put our shoulders to the wheel in order to mitigate the crime that is currently taking place in our nation.”
Stewart observed too many young people were being murdered through senseless acts of violence.
“Look at the ages of some of the students who are dying. We cannot just fold our arms and expect the Minister of National Security and police to do it all. We have to play a role in what is taking place with respect to crime in TT.”
Also on the drawing board, he said, is a national debate competition for primary and secondary schools.
Stewart believes the competition is a good way for students to thrash out issues healthily.
“There are better ways of dealing with differing opinions because sometimes when you have differing opinions people tend to lash out. But there are ways that you can disagree agreeably.”
He said the debate will also help with articulation, reading skills, the ability to do research and argue about issues without violence and rancour.
Stewart, who has served in several capacities in the NPTA over the past 26 years, said the association also wants to promote better relationships with its stakeholders as part of its 16-point plan.
This, he said, will involve stakeholders in the Ministry of Education, TTUTA, denominational boards, the primary and secondary schools principals’ associations and corporate TT.
Regarding the latter, Stewart said, “Many of the students who leave school now will be employed in some establishment either in Trinidad or in Tobago and we have to ensure that the product we are sending out there to work in these corporate entities are of the highest integrity – good qualities, honest – and of course they are going to help these same stakeholders in increasing and maximising their profit base.”
He added the corporate community has a natural stake in the education system to ensure that mechanisms are in place to churn out cohorts of successful students who will, in turn, reap tremendous dividends for these corporate citizens.
“So we want to make sure and get close to these stakeholders, in particular, so that they could assist us in this drive to improve and maintain a good education system.”