USAID-COMET Uses Internet for Gang Reduction
USAID-COMET’s approach to community transformation holds education as key to sustainability. A study conducted by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) rated education programs, and in particular homework and GSAT classes, as the most impactful interventions for reducing crime and violence in communities.
To date, USAID-COMET has sponsored more than 4000 students, who were at risk of dropping out of school, to take the preparatory online course for the national Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT). This intervention was in partnership with GoGSAT, a private sector online educational platform, and the Jamaica Constabulary Force. As pointed out by Mr. Bertrand Laurent, Director of USAID-COMET, statistics suggest that many students at the end of primary school age who do poorly in the test or who drop out of school because of poor test results are at greatest risk of joining gangs. Helping 4,000 of the most vulnerable students to perform well in the test and stay in school is therefore an effective part of a comprehensive gang reduction strategy.
USAID-COMET also supported the design of a Community Safety and Security (CSS) courseware designed by the Jamaica Constabulary Force. The CSS course taught students participating in the online GoGSAT program about community safety and security while building a stronger relationship with the police. The CSS courseware was made available to all students in the GoGSAT program during the 2009 academic year and again in May 2010.
Under USAID-COMET’s sponsorship GoGSAT also accommodated the first cyberspace meetings between Senior JCF Officers and students. This new and innovative way for students to discuss a wide number of issues with police was so successful that the JCF has committed to using this approach to increase its interaction with youth.
Mr. Laurent hopes that the private sector will work with the JCF to keep the CSS courseware in the program and to sponsor more at-risk students to enroll in GoGSAT in the future.