The recent upsurge in violence among students is being blamed on a rise in gang activity at learning institutions.
Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Education Senator Harry Husbands today said gangs were infiltrating the island’s schools, and were getting into territorial fights at the encouragement of grown ups.
“What the Ministry of Education has been looking into for sometime, and what came home forcefully to me yesterday, is that there are gang elements in Barbados who are attempting to infiltrate the schools,” Husbands said this morning at a news conference at the Ministry of Education.
“The people who are standing around and encouraging these behaviours in the schools are adults,” he added.
“I am of the view that when children cross that threshold on mornings they have a different experience from what is going on in their society; and right now, as we speak, especially in secondary schools, there are elements outside of the school seeking to disrupt that, and those elements must be dealt with in a firm way.”
A stabbing at Grantley Adams Memorial School on Tuesday, which left four students injured, forced the school’s closure yesterday and today, teachers met with the Ministry of Education to discuss their safety and that of the students.
A week earlier four students from the Daryll Jordan and Frederick Smith secondary schools suffered multiple stab wounds as violence erupted among students of the two schools aboard a state-run Transport Board school bus.
Husbands spent much of yesterday hearing the concerns of the Grantley Adams Memorial School teachers.
He did not attend today’s talks, which were being held while the Senator was meeting the media, accompanied by Minster of Education Ronald Jones, Chief Education Officer Karen Best and Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education June Chandler.
The former educator said there was a history of community disputes being transferred to the schools.
However, he said the problem had become more widespread and deliberate.
“There are longstanding traditional issues in our schools like country children versus town children. We all know that this has long been an issue but the difference now is that there is easy access to weapons of one sort or another,” Husband stressed,
Three male students, a 16-year-old and two 14-year-olds, have since appeared in court in connection with Tuesday’s stabbing. The 16-year-old, a resident of Bush Hall, St Michael, was charged with causing a disturbance.
He pleaded guilty and was granted $500 bail with one surety. He will return to court on April 12. The 14-year-olds, residents of Station Hill, St Michael and Tourville, St Joseph, were charged with causing serious bodily harm. One of them pleaded guilty and was remanded to the Government Industrial School (GIS) until April 12. The other pleaded not guilty and was remanded to the GIS until February 15.
This morning Husbands said the Ministry of Education needed the support of every Barbadian to curb school violence.
“We have all these programmes where we get the police to help us with this situation. However, we as society have to challenge this gang-like activity making its way in our schools. Today we are talking about Grantley Adams but we know that what is going on at one school is going on at other schools.
“It may be at a greater or lesser extent somewhere else but there would be elements there, and the challenge would be to arrest that and try to make these schools 100 per cent safe zones for students and for the adults who go there to work or perform legitimate activity,” he said.
Attorney General Adriel Brathwaithe yesterday announced that a new Juvenile Justice Bill scheduled to go before Parliament “in another week or two”, would hold parents responsible for violent acts committed by their children.
Brathwaite said he was banking on the new Bill to help address violent crime, particularly among the youth.
“One of the things that I have asked the Ministry of Home Affairs to do is to bring forward our Juvenile Justice Bill so we can have it within the Parliament in another week or two,” Brathwaite told reporters on the periphery of the annual police conference
at Solidarity House, Harmony Hall, St Michael.
He said the proposed legislation makes provision for parents to be held accountable “because you have to accept that there is a relationship between the behaviour that you are seeing manifested at the schools and what is happening now”.