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Catholic Education Board responds to mandatory registration in MiLAT Programme

Sharon Mangroo, Chief Executive of the Catholic Education Board of Management

By Lara Pickford-Gordon

Education stakeholders and others have welcomed the Cabinet’s decision for mandatory registration in the Military-Led Academic Training (MiLAT) Programme for students expelled from school.

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly made the announcement on Thursday, November 23 during a press conference at her ministry. She disclosed an increase in the number of students expelled from three last year to ten this year.

“Many of the students we are speaking about are either 16 or over 16. What you tend to see in terms of the pattern of misbehaviour, is that it gets very strong in Form Three,” Gadsby-Dolly said. The minister also mentioned Servol as another option for expelled students.

MiLAT “is specifically designed to help at-risk young men, aged 16–20 years, transform their lives and achieve academic success”. It offers a quasi-military environment where students receive support to achieve their academic goals, financial assistance and training in Character Development and para-military skills. LEARN MORE HERE

Sharon Mangroo, the Chief Executive Officer of the Catholic Education Board of Management (CEBM) said, “It is great to see students being given a chance to continue their education. The military staff is specially trained to help students develop good character. The structured environment helps reduce distractions and, along with clear expectations and consequences, enables students to focus and develop their own self-regulation skills.”

President of the Trinidad and Tobago National Council of Parent Teachers Associations, Walter Stewart said the NPTA is familiar with MiLAT as some of its member parents have graduates of the programme and “by and large give it high scores”.

Stewart questioned what will be done for expelled female students as MiLAT caters for males and there are many delinquent female students. He cited the example of a female student at a secondary school shouting obscenities and threatening a female teacher.

“Many of our students would have enrolled in secondary school at age 11 plus, 12, so that whole three-year span if at all there are deviant students, where do we now enrol these students or what other similar comparative exercise is open to them.”

The Trinidad Express asked Minister Gadsby-Dolly about this and through WhatsApp, she responded that there were government programmes which can be accessed for training such as the after-school classes and several other programmes for youth.

The NPTA is also concerned about the psychological impact on parents when their children are in MiLAT. Stewart said it is a residential programme, so participants are “taken out of their homes” for the duration.

Other programmes

The TT Scouting Association (ScoutsTT) said it was “welcome news” for individuals unable to fit into the regular model of formal education to be given an opportunity via MiLAT.

National Scout Commissioner Mark Ainsely John hoped structured programmes such as those offered by many state and civil organisations would be afforded to the families of the young people to treat with any indigency occurring within households.

“I recognise that these individuals come from diverse social settings in our communities, and more often than not, are in need of specialised care and assistance,” he added.

Ainsely John said ScoutsTT as part of the non-formal education has a part to play as well. It offers programmes to “help enhance the academics taught in classrooms, create opportunities for positive role-model interaction, and develop critical employability skills.”

The programmes allow young people to try new things, provide service to others, build self-confidence, and reinforce ethical standards. He said, “We develop young people to be active in their communities, and take positive active parts in serving people, community, environment and nation.”

ScoutsTT is ready to assist with the transformation of young people into active citizens and is willing to start scout troops at every educational institution including MiLAT, Servol, and the Youth Training and Rehabilitation Centre. Ainsley John said, “Thereby giving young people the same opportunities for growth as those in mainstream education.”