President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) Mary Redman Friday stepped up her warning to the Ronald Jones-led Ministry of Education not to allow cell phones in schools, saying these devices will only exacerbate the problem of gang activity and pose a major security threat to schools.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY amid concerns about violence in schools, Redman said a troubling trend had emerged where students affiliated with gangs from various communities used their mobile devices to call for backup whenever there was conflict with other students.
“If there is a quarrel during the day in the school you have some students who are affiliated with gangs and I have gotten this report that the student would use the cell phone to call for support and assistance. So by the time school ends, either just outside of the school gates or in the environs of the school there is a mob to assist the member who felt that in some way he or she was being ‘unfaired’. By the end of day you have a group outside to beat up somebody,” she explained.
Back in 2015, Jones had announced he was open to lifting the ban on cell phones, as they were learning instruments.
Just two months ago from the floor of Parliament, Jones reaffirmed that commitment to reversing the 2009 policy to prohibit the devices in classroom, stating that his ministry had garnered feedback from stakeholders.
“The BSTU, the BUT [Barbados Union of Teachers], the council of parent teachers associations and the principals all had the policy to review and I’ve now finally received all of their comments and we’re seeking to incorporate within the policy those comments which would give us hopefully a better rollout of the particular policy,” Jones said at the time.
However the BSTU president has accused the Minister of Education of operating within the realm of ideals amid what she sees as the grim reality facing students and teachers today.
She also lamented the many examples on social media of students engaging in brutal and barbaric fights, spurred on by their classmates, in a bid to garner likes.
“Cell phone use is contributing to the ill-discipline because as soon as there is a fight now children whip out the cell phones and the ones who are fighting know they are being recorded and they are performing as well.
“Before the use of cell phones when children started a fight you find friends trying to pull them apart, but now nobody is stopping fights,” suggested Redman.
“In watching one of these disgusting displays, I heard chants of, ‘fight bad and get nuff likes’. In other words the more barbaric and animalist the fight is, the greater number of likes you would get when it is posted. So you hearing that clearly in the background because this is what the cell phone are encouraging,” the teachers’ advocate said.