The rise in school-related violence being recorded and circulated on social media will not affect Minister of Education Ronald Jones’ plan to allow cell phones in schools from September.
Jones has made that clear, arguing that cell phones are not the problem, what students do with them, is.
When the new school year starts, the nine-year ban on cell phones will be lifted. But there have been calls for the decision to be reversed, especially on the heels of videos circulating of a 15-year-old Lester Vaughan schoolgirl being brutally attacked by schoolmates earlier this month.
The Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union has even suggested that the devices will only exacerbate the problem and pose a major security threat to schools.
However, Jones is adamant that “the cell phone and other mobile technologies such as tablets, iPods and all of these kinds of things don’t cause people to fight or get into any other kind of violence.
“They are just tools and if a tool is used to record an act of violence you don’t blame the tool, you blame the person who would have done the recording and you blame those who have been involved,” insisted the former teacher.
Jones made the comments over the weekend at the inaugural Young Women’s Christian Association FunFest at Queen’s College, where he commented on the widely circulated video of the attack on the Lester Vaughan student which has led to four teenagers being charged.
He said those who recorded the videos shared responsibility for inciting the onlookers and the perpetrator.
“Technology today makes it possible for you to simply take your smart phone or your tablet and record events. Even though you stand behind the lens you are a participant in the activity,” he said, while suggesting that regardless of whether there were cell phones around the incident would have occurred.
“Don’t blame the tool, don’t blame those who have made the tool, blame those who use the tool. By saying ‘move away the cell phone, tablet, camera’ that is not a solver. The incident will still take place.”
However, President of the Barbados National Council of Parent-Teacher Associations (BNCPTA) Shone Gibbs has maintained his position that cell phones do not belong in schools at this time.
While he shared Jones’ sentiments that technology should not be blamed for deviant acts, he said the focus should be the event and not the medium.
“The behaviour is one thing; the way it was carried it another thing. We should be more concerned about the behaviour than the medium at this stage,” he contended.
“We don’t need to be promoting violence and bullying by way of cell phones. We need to have zero tolerance on these things and erase them out of our educational landscape,” he added.
While recognizing the benefits of technology in education, the BNCPTA head has advocated for the ban to remain, in light of pressing issues, such as indiscipline, which need to be addressed.
“The stakeholders need to get back together and discuss discipline holistically before we can move forward with the cell phones. We are all in the favour of technology but the cell phones need to be put on hold at this time,” he said.