Today should have been a routine school day at Grantley Adams Memorial School. It was not. Instead, authorities from the Ministry of Education and staff sat in classrooms to try to wrap their minds around Tuesday’s violent lunchtime brawl which ended with three 15-year-old boys receiving multiple stab wounds and a 12-year-old girl suffering an injury to her foot after being struck by a stone in the melee.
Likewise, this morning’s routine trip by a Speightstown, St Peter-bound minibus transporting commuters and school children to their various destinations should have proceeded without any hitches, as it normally does. It didn’t. Around 9 o’ clock, police acting on a tip off that two students had weapons in their bags, intercepted the bus and conducted a search. We await word on their findings.
Increasing reports of deviance among our children in recent weeks have been disturbing.
Just last week, four students also received stab wounds while travelling on a school bus, and shortly before that a young male attempted to set fire to the hair of one of his female schoolmates.
These incidents have set off the age-old debate about declining behaviour among our youngsters and the possible causes.
Some blame the children themselves, the decline in corporal punishment, the media, technology, peer pressure, the school, the church, and so on.
But, of course, the fingers are always pointing straight back at grown-ups.
Just yesterday, there was ample evidence of the shameful examples adults set for the impressionable young ones among us.
At the annual sports day of the Christ Church Girls’ School, officers who were on duty ensuring the safety of the children encountered some adults allegedly smoking and drinking.
Police said in a statement that the adults in question were asked to stop or leave the premises.
An altercation broke out and a brother and sister were arrested for assaulting the officers from the Oistins Police Station.
One can’t help but wonder how many children witnessed the incident and perhaps later viewed the video that showed adults fighting with police officers while others on the sidelines endorsed the nonsensical behaviour.
One would think that in such an environment, where children are present, adults would keep cool heads.
No one tolerates disrespectful, defiant and rude children, but yet we do such a good job of showing them how to be obnoxious.
Yesterday’s behaviour was disgraceful.
Can we then fault and condemn children who openly defy authorities and resort to settling their disputes by fighting anywhere, at any time, not only with their fists but with weapons?
Deviance in school is a complex issue and education authorities, teachers’ unions, parents and other key stakeholders must urgently come up with effective interventions before we get to the stage where a child dies at the hands of another.
Today’s meeting between the Ministry of Education and teachers at the Grantley Adams Memorial School is therefore welcomed, but we hope it is the first step by authorities to treat with the problem seriously and implement a national plan for all schools to recapture troubled youth and encourage them to live productive lives.
This will, however, require that we first treat with the root problem, and that remains the home – poor parenting.
Too much bad behaviour is learnt at home and encouraged by parents.
Like it or not, children model exactly what they see. Gone are the days when children do as they are told without question. That “do as I say and not as I do” approach no longer cuts it.
There is much room for adults and parents to grow up and take their responsibilities seriously or be held accountable, by the law courts, for the behaviour of their children, as recommended by Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite.
Parents are a child’s first teacher and perhaps the most influential.
Beyond providing the essentials – food, shelter, and clothing – too many parents are only focused on material possessions while their charges remain untrained and neglected.
Parents need to take a long, hard look at the kind of adults they are shaping children to be.
Values and morals must be taught, and modelled more so, especially since our children are watching and learning.