The Ministry of Education is to establish a broad-based committee to investigate violence in schools.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones today announced that the committee would be responsible for looking into student-on-student violence and student-on-teacher violence. It will also investigate any cases of teacher-on-student violence “if that exists”.
Jones said the committee would provide recommendations on how to resolve the issue and enhance security at schools.
The minister said it made no sense talking about violence in schools and “expanding it into this most explosive thing” without a complete picture of what was happening within the school and the external factors that influenced this bahaviour.
He said the Barbados Christian Council, the grouping of evangelical churches, the National Council of Parent Teachers Associations, the unions representing teachers and principals and non-governmental organizations would be invited to join the Ministry of Education on the committee, which he anticipated would be established within the next week.
Jones also announced that a survey would be carried out among students to guage the dynamics of violence in schools.
However, he made it clear that the ministry did not want teachers to be exposed to acts of violence, or for teachers to precipitate violence on students. He said there was also a need to design programmes to improve the coping skills of teachers in a changing school environment.
Following a meeting with its members last Friday, President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd said teachers wanted to meet with Jones to discuss issues affecting them, including a recent spate of violence against teachers.
At today’s press conference, Jones was adamant that in the last two months, the ministry had met with the teachers unions, including the BUT, and concerns were laid on the table and discussed.
Parliamentary Secretary Harry Husbands supported Jones’ contention, revealing that only last week, Chief Education Officer Karen Best met with the BUT to discuss the alleged maltreatment of a primary school student by a teacher and the incident at Ellerslie Secondary School in which a student is said to have spat on and kicked a teacher. That incident led to both the BUT and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union calling out their members last week and the BUT’s demand to meet with Jones today.
“I might want to say to them look, we have met on Saturdays before, let us meet a Saturday to pull all of this together because when trade unions are out of school, that is an impact on the schools,” Jones told journalists.
However, he left the door open for talks with the union to resolve the vexing issues.
“Over time, we have met with union officials to seek to resolves issues before they become contentious. If they become contentious, we still meet to resolve those issues and our doors remain open,” he said.
The minister disclosed that the incident at Ellerslie was still being investigated by the police and while he had received a report from the school’s principal Major Errol Brathwaite, he was yet to hear from the board of management.
The BUT has confirmed that it will meet with teachers at 9 a.m. on Friday at its Welches, St Michael headquarters to discuss Jones’ response to their request for a meeting.