Violence, crime in schools Editorial
Guyana Chronicle
February 10, 2002

THE LATEST Minister of Education of the Caribbean Community to associate increasing violence and criminal act in schools with the lawlessness and breakdown in discipline in the society, is Trinidad and Tobago's Hazel Manning.

The fact, that there are serious concerns about the legitimacy of her own government in no way affects the relevance and substance of Mrs. Manning's contention.

Her predecessor, Mrs. Kamla Persad-Bissessar, was sufficiently troubled about the indiscipline, rowdyism and violence in schools in that member state of the Caribbean Community, to have initiated what Mrs. Manning is now planning to implement, as reported in the local and regional media - the introduction of metal detectors in schools as part of a new offensive to curb violence and crime.

From Jamaica, in the northern sub-region of CARICOM, to Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago in the south, and including once socially stable Eastern Caribbean societies like Barbados, there have been some very alarming reports of rowydism and violence in and out of classes in both primary and secondary schools; of students in possession of guns, knives and other dangerous weapons; and even physically attacking teachers.

More recent worrying reports of students, some not even teenagers, absenting themselves from school and being involved in sex for money with male adults; or being lured into the production of pornographic, or so-called "blue" movies with indecent, multi-partner sex acts, point to a moral crisis that requires total involvement of all sectors to help in restoring a sense of decency and respect for law and order.

Moral Crusade
There must not only be a concerted effort, across religious and political lines, to retake our schools from indisciplined and violent-prone students, and to keep the criminals and moral degenerates far away from them.

We must be engaged in a crusade to remind decision makers and people of influence in public life, including the media, religious and cultural organisations, trade unions, business sector and political parties, of their obligations to teach by the example of their own individual behaviour. If not, they too may come to be shocked by the behaviour of their own loved ones, either at school or otherwise.

When politicians and political activists choose to ignore the rule of law and engage in lawless, violent behaviour; when members of the police and other disciplined forces and those associated with the justice system give cause for concern about their behavioural practices, they must know that they are contributing to the indiscipline, disregard for authority among students and even their involvement in criminal acts.

The time has come for critical reassessment of the roles of parent-teachers associations; and how civil society could become involved in enhancing ethical and moral values as part of the education of children in the schools system.

Teachers associations, naturally, have a vital role to play in the process. Not only should they always strive to set a good example. Their views on how best to correct the decline in moral behaviour and arrest the upsurge in violence and crime in schools must be submitted through their representative body and given serious consideration for urgent action.