Minister of Education, Science and Technology Ronald Jones has broken his silence on the Lester Vaughn Secondary School incident, lashing out against members of the public over their treatment of the nation’s young people.
Speaking today at the launch of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA) inaugural FunFest, Jones accused Barbadians of viciously attacking and “eating” its youth.
He said he was appalled at the vicious onslaught by members of the public towards the students who were involved in the attack.
“This society is eating its young just like a disturbed centipede . . . We are not physically putting them in our mouths, but physically abusing many of our young people denying them those simple things that they need,” he said.
“There has been a whole plethora of negativity. I have not yet seen or heard of a positive activity or solution which can bring some of our young people from the edge of which they sit or stand. I prefer to take a more positive viewpoint in trying to rescue some of those who have or might be exposed or prone to that level of behaviour.”
A video of the incident, which was widely circulated on social media, ignited the wrath of parents and educators alike.
While acknowledging that such levels of brutality had no place within the educational system, Jones said that it was the responsibility of the community to get to the root of anger and reinstil the traditional values of respect in the nation’s children.
“Yes, it should have never have happened, that level of brutality should have never been present and should not be around girls or boys for that matter. We have to learn again and again in this country to respect humanity, to respect your blood, to respect your neighbour, to respect your peers,” Jones said.
He blamed the changing attitudes and behaviours exhibited by young children and young adults on their parents and society, arguing that Barbados has tossed the notion of “it takes a village to raise a child” in favour of a more individualistic and self–centred approach.
“The society acted as the holding agent of our children. Today that society has become callous. That society no longer looks at the children belonging to them, they look at the children belong to you and you have to take care of them,” he contended.
He said poor parenting and adults in society who give children mixed messages, assist in confusing the impressionable minds of the youth.
“Parents need to step up to the plate more, that is the bottom line, and then the agencies of the state must step in to help in a genuine way . . . because we have to rescue a set of our young people who are being abused and tossed out right across the system,” he said.
“We have to work and find systems and solutions. The bell is ringing and ringing loudly. We cannot deny that there is violence in our society, we cannot deny that there is more drug use in our society, we can’t deny there is more anger in our society . . . that there are some children who are not protected. Once we move away from denial and face the harsh truth, we will become better on behalf of our children and our parents,” Jones added
The Minister disclosed that the Ministry and the National Parent Teacher Association are currently organising focus groups to tackle the issue of violence in schools.
He said given the urgency of the problem, they are looking to have a plausible solution for the new school term in September.