PAPUA NEW GUINEA: Research Indicates Salesian Education Deters Youth Crime
(MissionNewswire) Shaun Larcom—who holds a research doctorate from the University College of London—studied the relationship between criminal behavior and juridical pluralism in Papua New Guinea with the assistance of staff at the Salesian-run Vunabosco Agro-Technical Secondary School.
As Larcom studied youth at the Salesian-run school, he found that access to education played a much greater role in reducing the propensity for payback killings than harsh criminal penalties. He also noted the positive impact the Salesians had on education and on their local community.
Larcom says of his host Fr. John Cabrido, a missionary at Vunabosco, “Not only did Fr. John Cabrido give me a warm invitation to visit, within a couple of weeks he had organized a two month itinerary for my fieldwork, including hosts, guides, translators and transport.” Larcom’s research is timely as youth crime is something the country continues to address.
Criminal behavior among youth in Papua New Guinea and across the South Pacific has been on the rise. In March 2009, the Government of Papua New Guinea, in partnership with UNICEF, hosted a sub-regional meeting focused on juvenile justice issues, including finding ways to strengthen the links between the justice and child welfare systems.
Delegates at the meeting noted that many youth were detained for petty crimes with incarceration serving both as a punishment and as a rehabilitation tool. A UN Secretary-General’s Global Study on Violence Against Children in 2005, revealed that incarceration resulted in youth being vulnerable to further violence, abuse and other legal rights violations.
Larcom’s research results show that education rather than traditional detention plays a greater role in reducing crime and recidivism in youth offenders. At Salesian schools and technical institutes in Papua New Guinea youth have access to education where otherwise they may not. Secondary and technical education in the country is reserved for very few but at the Vunabosco Agro-Technical Secondary School as many youth as possible are admitted, regardless of academic ability.
Education provides the means for youth to better their lives and their circumstances. Students at the Vunabosco Agro-Technical Secondary School gain skills they will have for a lifetime and are better prepared to serve their communities when they go home – passing their education forward.
Larcom noted, “One of the former students of Bougainville, who I met, returned to his village and built a hydroelectric generator out of scrap, which provides regular electricity to the whole village.”
It is this type of education, Larcom found, that deters criminal behavior while preparing youth for a productive future, creating opportunities where otherwise there would be none.