President of the Barbados National Council of Parents Teachers Association (BNCPTA) Shone Gibbs has made a strong appeal for parents to take “fresh guard” in the way they deal with their children.
Failing this, Gibbs said authorities would have to enact legislation to hold parents responsible for their children’s behavior.
Weighing in on recent deviant behavior among pupils, including two stone throwing incidents aboard school buses that resulted in injuries, and a school girl brandishing what appeared to be a high powered rifle in a photo which has gone viral on social media, Gibbs said “we need to reclaim our society seriously and it can only be done through a higher level of accountability by all persons involved.”
“There must be a way where we can hold parents responsible for underage children who are responsible for these acts of damage to buses and even attacks on other students and such like,” Gibbs told Barbados TODAY.
“If the child looked at or even considered doing something, they would imagine ‘what type of impact would this have on my parent?’ and as a result of that, that pretty much check their behavior because you know ‘if I do this then it will affect my mom or my dad, then I am not going to do it.’”
However, he made it clear he was not advocating wholesale punishment of parents for the sins of their children. He said any legislation would have to look favourably on parents who intervene and attempt to seek help for their troubled children.
“You have to be fair to parents that would have tried their best. There should be evidence that there have been some level of intervention by the parent to work with that child. Case in point, ‘if I would have attempted to engage that services of PAREDOS, Child Care Board, Juvenile Liaison Scheme, to help me with a child that might be a challenging child and that child did something’, then you would know that the parent would not have been neglectful and would have been trying. So, here again it must be looked at on a case by case basis,” Gibbs stressed to Barbados TODAY.
A concerned Gibbs explained that the situation as it stands was “extremely alarming” and it was important that there be an examination of what was happening in the home.
“We really need to relook at families and family values and reiterate the importance of parenting at this stage, because obviously, the tender age of many of these children that are involved in deviant behavior and undesirable behavior is a clear indication that they have lost their way, which places the responsibility right at the parents.
“We really need to look at the relationships that we are cultivating with our children. This is a serious matter, it is a matter that cannot be ignored but it is one also that however you look at it affects the family as well and we must look at our family values home by home, child by child and parent by parent,” he said.
The BNCPTA head urged the entire community to be involved, saying the police alone could not control the problem. He called on parents to “reclaim our children” and to take a “higher level of responsibility” for their children’s upbringing and values.
Gibbs said the BNCPTA would continue to monitor the situation and would soon roll out a number of initiatives at the national level to create awareness and “heighten the responsibility of parents in matters like these and not just thinking that it is a matter for teachers or politicians or for the police, but recognize that we have an important role to play in terms of influencing, controlling and curbing what we are seeing with our children in our society.”
Meantime, Minister of Education Ronald Jones has issued a stern warning that he would not tolerate this sort of behaviour by the students and insisted that the Ministry would enforce its disciplinary codes.
At the same time, Jones advised school children against engaging in acts that would portray them in a negative light on social media.
Speaking to the media following a church service this morning to mark the beginning of Education Month, the minister called for a change of behaviour.
“It is even more beyond the notion of discipline. It is how persons can believe that negative behaviour is the behaviour to be practiced. So one would have to work to change that behaviour relative to those children because still at the end of the day, the law strongly stipulates that children must be educated up to [the age of] sixteen. We have other institutions as well that can of course kick in once the judiciary system makes a determination,” Jones said.
Some of the pictures and videos making the rounds on various social media platforms include fights in a bus terminal and students posing with guns. The police are said to be investigating the recent spate of deviant behaviour.
Jones revealed that the Ministry of Education had been working with the Barbados Transport Board to strengthen an ongoing regime that was conceptualized to supervise the movement of students in the bus stands and on the buses.
“I am sure that you wouldn’t want me to declare who they would be. But there would be a presence there in order to more adequately supervise or to monitor what is happening on our buses as they move form schools to their final destination, and that is in place,” Jones explained.