As violence in schools is again raising its ugly head, the time has come for Barbados to carry out a national survey among private and public schools to determine the extent of the problem.
The survey must be focussed on schools where violence acts are constantly committed, finding out the profile of the victims, the profile of the perpetrators and the contributing factors.
This suggestion was made by Cheryl Willoughby, director of the National Task Force on Crime Prevention who voiced concerns about the issue of violence in schools, as she delivered opening remarks at the Task Force Girls Talk Workshop held at BIMAP Training Room, in commemoration of International Women’s Day.
Willoughby said that most times, there were underlying problems that manifested themselves in aggressive behaviour being exhibited by the perpetrators.
She said that through the findings of the survey, interventions could take place among affected schools, and the perpetrators and victims could also get the help they need.
The director also indicated that she strongly believed that the more power that was removed from schools to administer discipline, the more children would believe that they were the authority.
And while she agreed with the view that children had rights, as clearly articulated by the Convention On The Rights Of The Child, parents, teachers and all individuals who have responsibility for children had the right to ensure that they knew right from wrong, as well as the consequences to actions taken.
“Let children be children. Let’s strive to preserve our cultural identity, our value system and way of life that have made us the women and men we are today. God bless those teachers some are now retired, our parents and grandparents who oftentimes did not benefit from any formal education, but they mastered the art of disciplining their children,” she said.
Willoughby also said that she would continue to express her concerns at the high level of sexual victimisation of children in Barbados as she recognized from research that the 10-14 age group among girls was the most vulnerable for victimization. She said what was alarming, was the fact that the offenders were known to the victims or have a close association to their family.
“We have a collective responsibility as adults to protect our children from all harm. I want to encourage all of you girls gathered here today to report any incident of sexual assault or any behaviour that makes you uncomfortable to an adult that you trust. It may not be you, but a friend. Encourage that person to get help from trusted adults,” she urged.
Marilyn Rice-Bowen, president of the National Organisation of Women (NOW) in delivering uplifting words to the female students from secondary schools across the island, told them to live positive lives by staying focussed on getting a good education and engaging in positive activities.
Rice-Bowen also pleaded with the charges that as their parents felt the brunt of the current economic climate, they should stay away from pressuring them, particularly single mothers, about spending money on unnecessary material things and extracurricular activities such as entertainment shows.