by Donna Sealy
Guidance counsellors are seeing an increase in sexual activity among third and fourth formers.
They are also noticing a surge in student bullying, self harming and absenteeism among students, recently elected President of the Barbados Association of Guidance Counsellors, Saul Leacock, told Barbados TODAY in a telephone interview.
“We have a rise in student bullying, this is across the island. Even though the percentage was originally small, there has been a rise in self harming behaviour, students cutting themselves.
“[They are] highly sexually active, there has been an increase in children being overly familiar with and engaging in intimate expression. This is 13, 14 and 15 [year olds], third and fourth formers especially. We also have absenteeism and late arrivals,” he disclosed.
The guidance counsellor explained what he meant by the rise in sexual activity.
Noting that he was speaking about what he “came into contact with not only at my school but other cases”, he said the teenagers in most schools were engaging in fellatio and foundling, among other things.
“They’re too familiar with each other to the point where they don’t respect each other and they engage in and allow, certain things to be done to themselves. In some cases we have some assaults, so we get complaints about those.
He added that the incidents of students sneaking and having sex was not high at school.
“My colleagues have said there is the over familiarity and they are involved and do certain things in secret and unless they are caught you wouldn’t know — they plan it well.
“Children nowadays, based on how they talk and gyrate, it is clear they are highly sexually active. Sometimes they don’t see us seeing them but we do see some things showing us.
“Wherever you get boys and girls together and there’s an interest, a desire to experiment, we’ve had some cases of that too, all kinds of activities … touching, caressing and fondling,” he said.
Leacock, who works at Daryll Jordan Secondary School, said it was at the stage where the counsellors were worried.
“We have children who practise these and when we interview we see that they’re exposed to a number of things, whether the video or the Internet, which arouses their curiosity and have a desire to satisfy and experiment with,” he added.
The home environment is also a factor “almost 100 per cent” and he called on parents to be more vigilant.
“Even though the parent appears shocked that the child is viewing cyber sex or nudity or pornography with full access, parents need to be more vigilant in how they’re [children] using their computers and what sites they’re going on. They need to check…,” he stressed.
Regarding self-harming, he said that conflicts between parents and their children, negligence as well as their lack of care, concern, and interest, and peer pressure that would see the youngsters sitting and cutting themselves.
“They have a line of razor blade marks on their arms, from their wrists right up. We have some students who have suicidal tendencies and depression is very high among children. They suffer from depression just like adults. I was at a seminar just recently where I was part of the panel and we dealt with that. If adults have difficulty dealing with a number of stressors, how much more adolescents… They’re developing the bodies of adults but they do not have the judgement, or the responsibility or sense of adults.
“These are the children we have to deal with and at my school, Grantley Adams and St. George, they may be a low academic profile and there’s where the cognitive challenge is, the cognitive deficit challenges come in,” he said.
This factor resulted in low self-esteem and self worth, which stemmed from their parents not being interested in them or their education and the ignorance of parents in how to deal with them and their wilful defiance.
One route he, as president, said he would like to take is working with the National Council of Parent Teacher Associations to organise and host workshops for parents of primary and secondary school children so they could be armed with the knowledge and skills to improve or hone their parenting skills. [email protected]