The Ministry of Education today assured the island’s teachers that their concerns about school violence and suggestions on how the issue should be tackled would be taken on board.
According to a statement issued by the Barbados Government Information Service (BGIS) the undertaking was given by Permanent Secretary June Chandler when she and Chief Education Officer Karen Best met with top executives of the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU), as well as shop stewards from primary and secondary schools, to discuss the challenges.
Friday’s meeting came against the backdrop of a number of worrying incidents, including separate stabbings involving students of Grantley Adams Memorial School, St Leonard’s Boys’ School and Darryl Jordan and Frederick Smith secondary schools, and a cutlass attack back in November last year in which a 17-year-old student of The Ellerslie School lost a finger.
Chandler told the gathering that her ministry was concerned about the rise in violence in schools, terming the situation “totally unacceptable”.
She also said the ministry was prepared to engage all stakeholders on the issue, particularly teachers “who were in the trenches” every day.
In this regard, Chandler said education officials would also meet with representatives of the Barbados Union of Teachers and the National Council of Parent Teachers Association. She also revealed that Minister of Education Ronald Jones would meet with school principals next week, the BGIS statement said.
During the meeting, BSTU President Mary Redman reported that teachers were “emotionally drained, frustrated and angry” and looked forward to hearing the ministry’s plans to address the situation.
Redman noted that the BSTU had already forwarded some recommendations to the ministry coming out of a February 14 meeting of its membership, but said additional proposals would be made.
At today’s meeting, teachers called for a comprehensive review of the syllabuses in both primary and secondary schools, saying the curriculum was at the core of much of the frustration and low self-esteem exhibited by some students.
They also called for a relook of the method used to transfer students from primary to secondary school, as well as mandatory searches of students by guards before entering school premises; an examination of the system of suspension to allow for counselling; the introduction of mentoring programmes for at-risk students; as well as new parenting programmes.