Editorial comment – The alternative

Professor Steven Ratuva during the discussion at the FNU campus in Nasinu. Picture: SUPPLIED

Award-winning political sociologist and global interdisciplinary scholar Professor Steven Ratuva made sense when he spoke about criminal activities and options for vulnerable youth.

Unless there is an alternative, criminal activities may not be the option which vulnerable youth would grab, he said. Prof Ratuva spoke at the inaugural Pacific Regional Law Enforcement Conference in Nadi. He said vulnerable youths who had low sense of belonging in communities easily gravitated towards criminal activities.

There were major cultural impacts in terms of transnational crime in our communities.

Young people, he said, were attracted to criminal activities such as drug trafficking because it was considered “easy money”.

People were looking for alternatives in a situation where there was poverty, and in a situation where there was marginalisation where development had enriched people in various parts of the Pacific.

“So if you provide an alternative, then the criminal activities may not be the alternative which they would grab,” Prof Ratuva said.

The education systems, he said, need to be reformed to address the issues of vulnerability of youths in the Pacific.

“Our education system not only in the Pacific, but a lot of education systems in the world have tried to reform the education system, just to make sure they address the issue of vulnerability.

“Because when you fail, you consider yourself to be a failure invariable and you look for alternative ways of dealing with things so it’s a whole of society approach where the communities in different ways can address particular aspects of what they can do.”

He outlines what he feels is an issue that needs to be addressed.

“It’s not an easy exercise, because it has to do with changing people’s mind, people’s behavior and people’s expectations when people’s expectations are not met, then they begin to look for options.”

Clearly changing the mindset is critical.

As Prof Ratuva says, we must understand what we are dealing with. In the Pacific, he said, we can go only as far as what we can do in terms of keeping the youth engaged.

“The moment they feel disempowered, they feel isolated, they feel vulnerable that is when they begin to look for options and the option or the easiest option is a high risk, but high reward criminal activities.”

Ultimately what matters is how we can address the issues at hand.

As we said earlier, Prof Ratuva makes sense. Our challenge is to make things happen. And that means constant engagement, and empowerment. And there has to be awareness!

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