There are “sexual predators”, both male and female, within the island’s school system, Minister of Education Ronald Jones said today, as he issued a stern warning that the authorities intended to come down heavily on the culprits.
A fiery Jones made his position clear during an address to the Lodge School’s Speech Day, saying his ministry would be adopting a policy of zero tolerance towards any teacher found guilty of sexually exploiting students.
The Minister of Education told his audience he had recently received a photo via social media of a 13-year-old secondary school girl engaging in sex with a fully grown man whose face was hidden, while the girl’s was fully exposed.
Contending there were people trying to demean Barbados’ young women, the outspoken minister said: “Recently someone sent me some pornography which, I am led to believe, was done to make me aware of what might be happening with some of our young people.
“It was sent to others, I believe that some students at the Lodge School may have received it also. However, I became very disappointed after I was told that the young lady is 13 years old and attends one of our schools. The picture is showing the face of the girl.”
He asked: “Should a 13 year old who should have been in school be sexually bludgeoned? Even if she were 16 years, should she be sexually bludgeoned and her face and her form displayed, but yet you cannot see the face of the male? That has to be deliberate.”
He went on: “Someone or some persons are out there trying to demean our young women. I hope none of you young women present would allow yourselves to be demeaned in that way. These things are serious. What is going to happen to that young lady as she encounters others in her life and as she moves around and is recognized?
“Are we going to be sympathetic? Are we going to empathize at the betrayal because that is what it is? Is she going to join others on some of our famous streets? I hope not. I hope she will spend time in inner reflection with the help of parents if they are there or some state agency to give her counsel,” the Minister of Education added.
Jones, who spoke with great passion, said: “The males of this country have to take stock for what they are doing at this juncture of the country’s history.”
In an attempt to curb child molestation in the island’s education system, Jones said officials in his ministry recently stipulated that contact between teachers and students must be formal.
Stressing that the ministry would be taking steps to stamp out child molestation in the schools, Jones said: “There is and will be zero tolerance for any sexual exploitation of our children by any teacher. Find a job somewhere else. I do not care how good you are, how good you are loved by children and your colleagues say how brilliant you are. Once you cross the line, there is no more time for you in education in Barbados. None!”
He added: “These children are there for us to protect, not to exploit. Today, because of different proclivities, there is female on female and male on male. I do not want to see a female teacher lying across the lap of a female student. There is a respectful distance that must be observed.”