The education system is simply not properly equipped to deal with at-risk and deviant students, according to a Government spokesman on education.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education Harry Husbands today admitted that a shortage of counsellors and psychologists in the island’s schools was impacting discipline.
“We have children whose parents were on drugs before they were born and they have come into the world with tremendous difficulties . . . .There may be a few young people in our education system who could be diagnosed as schizophrenic or there may even be a few who could be diagnosed as sociopaths. These are important issues and we don’t have yet in this country enough support services such as psychologists and people who have the right support skills to deal with these young people who are living in these times with drugs, violence and guns. Our education system is now struggling to get up to the level required when it comes to the support that we need,” Husbands told supporters of the ruling Democratic Labour Party (DLP) at the party’s final luncheon lecture for the year.
Husbands’ admission came in the wake of a recent cutlass attack at The Ellerslie School during which one student was left nursing several wounds, including a severed finger.
Following the attack President of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union Mary Redman repeated a longstanding criticism that teachers had no knowledge of any programmes by the ministry to which deviant children can be referred.
Husbands said though the Ronald Jones-led Ministry of Education has made strides, it had missed the mark when it comes to treating the root causes of disciplinary issues, some which have risen to national attention in recent times.
However, he said due to the shortage of counsellors in schools the ministry has been referring children to private psychologist in order for them to get the help that they need.
“We have had some support from one of the local charities where we have six counsellors in 20 primary school and this is a pilot project that has been going on for some time. We need desperately to expand that. There is no disagreement on the need to expand the services of support, we don’t have enough and we are working to do that. Currently the ministry employs psychologist in private practice to provide support for families of troubled children. The school identifies the children and the ministry foots the bill,” he explained.
However Husbands cautioned against entertaining the notion of a wide-scale breakdown of discipline in the nation’s schools.
He argued that despite recent serious incidence of school violence, Barbadian schools were no worse off than schools in other countries.