Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education Senator Harry Husbands Friday expressed concern that Barbadian children, as young as primary school age, were showing early signs of mental illness.
Delivering the lunchtime lecture at the Democratic Labour Party’s headquarters at George Street, St Michael, Husbands suggested that life in general was more complicated for today’s students than previous generations.
“We have children in the schools with all kinds of mental issues and we are not talking about bad behaved children. I am talking about young people with specifically medically diagnosed challenges,” the education official said, while pointing out that there were children whose parents were chronic drug users.
“The children have challenges that you cannot begin to understand or think of,” he stressed, adding that society was “a bit slow” in developing initiatives to deal with these issues, which he suggested could be blamed on parents in “99.9 per cent of the cases”.
Further lamenting that there has been a significant shift in the moral standards of Barbadians, Husbands recalled that while he served as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic the big problem affecting that tertiary institution was gambling.
“It was not drugs or fighting or throwing objects at teachers. The big disciplinary problem to my surprise was gambling,” he said, stressing that, “anything that happened, any fight that occurred arose from gambling among the students.
“I never knew it. It was a shock to me that in this day, gambling was such a big thing,” the Government official said.
Husbands told the audience that in an attempt to address the issue of disruptive students, the ministry had remodeled the old Erdiston Primary School and introduced the New Horizons Academy.
“We did take the decision that we are going to keep the academy out of the public domain and let the specialists at the institution get on with their work away from public gaze. So children who present special problems in schools have to spend some time at the New Horizons Academy where they have social workers and psychologists,” he said.
He also revealed that the ministry had established the School Positive Behaviour Management programme, which utilizes the services of private psychologists.
Government has also adopted a programme from Latin America, which allows students to enter the world of work to learn entrepreneurial skills and then re-enter the formal educational system.
“The basis of this programme is to use sports to teach all of these things. This programme also utilizes a lot of job attachments in order to provide a new perspective for people,” the Government Senator said.
His comments came against the backdrop of concerns raised by teachers about the level of violence in schools.
Earlier this week a suspended 15-year-old student of the Parkinson Memorial Secondary returned to the school’s Pine, St Michael compound unannounced and smashed a car window belonging to a member of the teaching staff.
The fourth form student has since been appeared in court and has been remanded to the Government Industrial School until May 10, when he will appear before the Juvenile Court.