Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : June 15th 2014 Contents A18
Sunday Guardian www.guardian.co.tt June 15, 2014
The sign at the side of the steep,
winding road leading up to St Barb s,
one of the more volatile crime areas
in Laventille, shouts, "Jesus Saves!"
In St Barb s, "at risk" young men
have been studying Mathematics and
English under police protection for the
last six months.
It was a move they themselves ini-
tiated, triggered by the gang execution
of allies, Derrick "Warlord" Joseph, 23,
of St Barb s and Ishmael Bain, 19, of
Snake Valley, Laventille, early in Jan-
Warlord, who was known as "The
Shooter," and Bain, were reportedly
killed by a gang leader with whom they
Those studying Mathematics and
English are a hodge podge of young
men between the ages 14 and 26, some
with criminal records, some without,
social activist Hal Greaves said.
"They asked for Maths and English.
That s where they wanted to start.
"I have never seen young people
excited about algebra and isosceles tri-
angle. They quarrel with each other
about who should go up on the black-
This programme, however, has noth-
ing to do with Mathematics and English
being taught in the Ministry of Sports
controversial $34 million Life Sport
School dropouts, they want to con-
tinue their education but cannot go
back to regular school.
They would be killed by rival gangs
for crossing the borderline.
So they are studying inside the com-
munity centre in St Barb s, under police
Since the classes started, one of the
students has been killed by rival gangs
and others shot at.
There are two Port-of-Spain gang
alliances, Rasta City and the Muslims.
"It s really a sort of Christian/Muslim
war," a police source explained.
Greaves is involved with the Hearts
and Minds Unit of the National Security
Ministry s Inter-Agency Task Force
(IATF), involved in the schooling of the
young men. The ministry s Citizen s
Security Programme is also working
closely with them, as well as NGOs,
like the Laventille-based Love Until
They are taught by volunteer tutors
provided by RSC International, an edu-
cational institution that works in low
performing schools and communities.
An air of deceptive peace hung over
the hilltop community of St Barb s.
On one side are the mountains of
the Northern Range and, on the other,
ships can be seen floating in the misty
Gulf of Paria in the distance.
Smoke billowing from rubbish burn-
ing in a backyard and laden mango
trees gave this crime hotspot, minutes
from the capital city, an almost rural
Inside the community centre, a
stone s throw from the St Barb s Police
Station, four youths and a man in his
forties sat around a table.
It was their day off from classes and
they had come out for the Guardian
Shurland Garvin, 41, alias Boombay,
identified as a St Barb s leader, did most
of the talking.
Why did they drop out of school?
"Because of war, because of where
the school was situated," they explained.
"The school fall behind enemy lines.
For example, you living in St Barb s
which warring with men from San Juan.
"They might not view you as a
schoolchild. They might see you as part
of the team."
They want normal careers. "Some
sign up for police, some for UWI, some
for electrical installation and drafting.
"We watching it as the boys crying
out for betterment," Boombay said.
Class under police watch
They chose to move away from criminal influ-
ences, but people are trying to pull them back,
"Police protection is needed for the class. When
you gather men together you are setting them up to
get shot from rivals. Without the police you couldn't
Since the classes started, the youths were at-
tacked twice in one weekend, said IATF senior offi-
cer, Inspector Reid.
"Rivals came into the area and attacked them; One
Reid felt it was the pain of betrayal that made
them determined to have a better life.
Greaves said the IATF, present at the classes, pro-
He said some of the youths cannot leave the area
to go to school.
"Rivals will shoot you anywhere in any hot spot.
Men can't cross the line. All had to drop out of school
and are trying to get back in some way."
When they started the class, six of the youths
couldn't read and write. Those are now doing Form 2
Greaves said there were 27 of them initially, now
there are 36.
"It's more than Maths and English. They are learn-
ing to submit to authority. There is a life skills com-
ponent and a mentorship programme."
An RSC representative, who preferred to "stay in
the background," said someone from St Barb's called
and asked them to donate software.
"When I went, I realised they didn't have much
going for them. The IATF asked us to take over the
"We also have classes in small cottage industries,
computer literacy and animation."
The young men went to Gary Grant, a community
officer with the Citizens Security Programme and
asked for help to study.
Grant, a pastor and former resident of the area,
has been working in St Barb's for five years and has
managed to earn the trust of the community.
He works closely with the young men.
Though not ended, gang activity in St Barb's has
diminished since the programmes and classes
started, he said.
Under the gun
...'At risk' young men learn maths, English
Delvis George, 18, buys a pie from resident Shenequa Woods. Woods said she
encourages the youth to attend classes.
From Left, Delvis George looks over his notes in the St Barb's community centre while Levi Nurse, Ricky
Bramble and Jevon Gibbs take a break. They are studying mathematics and English an the St Barb's
community centre. PHOTOS: YVONNE BABOOLAL
Class under police watch
...gang activity drops in St Barb's
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