Education Ministry determined to curb violence in schools
- Cellular phone ban among action plan

Kaieteur News
March 10, 2007

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In light of a growing trend of societal ills in schools, the Ministry of Education has adopted a concerted plan of action to curb this, including a ban on cellular phones, increased sporting activity and the placement of school welfare officers. This was disclosed during a press briefing yesterday at the Ministry's Brickdam Office.

The upsurge of violent attacks both on teachers and students by perpetrators in and out of the school system has become of great concern to the Ministry.

According to Minister of Education, Shaik Baksh, his Ministry is in the process of incorporating a number of school welfare officers to assists teachers.

This strategy will be monitored on a monthly basis and is to see rigorous tactics being undertaken.

Baksh said the Ministry will also implement a ban on the cellular phones, a culture which has developed in schools.

Commenting on the increased use of narcotics by students, the minister informed that there are plans to declare all schools ‘smoke-free zones'.

Baksh stressed that although social problems in schools have escalated, it is not only the responsibility of the ministry but parents, the community and other key stakeholders.

As it relates to the recent incidents at St Gabriel's Primary and North Georgetown Secondary, Minister Baksh said the police have identified several persons believed to be responsible and are investigating the matter.

He commented that a more child-friendly approach is necessary with respect to students taking weapons to school instead of a search system.

“We can't have a system where you search the bags of every student, so a more child-friendly approach is needed in dealing with this,” Minister Baksh said.

Minister within the Ministry of Education Dr. Desrey Fox said that in order to address these issues, teacher would need to understand the background of the students.

Dr Fox said some students are left unguarded and are forced to take care of their schooling needs unattended.

She noted that in addition to the broken value system of the family unit, children are exposed to violent television shows from which even adults should refrain.

“Even during the crime spree you had graphic scenes in the media…We are training people to deal with these issues.”

She stated that some students feel they need to lash out for as simple a reason as someone stealing their pencils.

However, she explained that this might just be their defence mechanism having been exposed to a hostile environment.

The Minister said their status in society might also contribute, since some students are taunted into wearing name-branded sneakers and fitting into a clique.

“They respond to false-naming, taunts and jeers and become enraged, so they come into the school system ready to fight for the least thing.”

Dr. Fox said teachers often use the word ‘bad' very loosely to which young children are extremely sensitive.

She posited that some teachers are themselves products of dysfunctional homes and would have their own relational difficulties.

“There are also influences at the macro-level. Some of these students would have witnessed some shootings firsthand; some have parents in prison or working out of town and some don't have enough support at home,” Minister Fox remarked.

She added that the welfare officers will facilitate discussions, initiate peer counselling and encourage conflict resolution.

This she mentioned will assist in a number of areas including public speaking, confidence building and an overall improvement.

The Ministers said most of these violent attacks occur when teachers are away at University or on leave.

Minister Baksh said the prefect system is therefore of crucial importance and should be revived in every school.

Addressing the lewd developments in the dancehall arena and pornography - where students are lured for cash - Minister Baksh said this is the responsibility of the Human Services Ministry.

He observed that societal degradation has become embedded in the school system and is even evident at national events.

However, he said the ministry is planning to expand its physical education and sporting programmes to channel the energies of these youths in the right direction.