Exactly a month after he blamed a rise in gang activity at learning institutions for the recent upsurge in violence among students, Government Senator Harcourt Husbands says the issue of school violence is being exaggerated.
The senior education official, while acknowledging that school violence was a problem, suggested on Friday that Barbados was not the worse place where violence in schools existed, while blaming the media for not highlighting more positive youths who were successful in their respective fields of study.
“This idea of youth violence and violence in the school and so on, is overstated. That is not to say there is not a problem. Of course with all young people everywhere in Barbados, in Trinidad and Tobago and in Timbuktu, there is a challenge with deviance, that is a reality of modern day life,” Husbands, who is the parliamentary secretary in the Ministry of Education, said.
The former teacher however conceded that violence in schools may be on the increase in Barbados, while arguing that despite “all of the talk you might hear about violence” there were a lot of students who were “a part of the most successful generation in the country’s history”.
“That is not to say there are not challenges and there are not young people dealing with deviant behaviour, and it may even be slightly on the increase, but there is not more deviancy in Barbados than in anywhere else. As a matter of fact, Barbadian young people may be more productive and more engaged than many other young people elsewhere,” he said.
It was during a news conference last month that Husbands warned that gangs were infiltrating the island’s schools, and were getting into territorial fights at the encouragement of grown ups.
That comment followed a stabbing incident at the Grantley Adams Memorial School, which left four students injured. A week earlier four students from the Daryll Jordan and Federick Smith secondary schools had suffered multiple stab wounds as violence erupted among students of the two schools aboard a state-run Transport Board school bus.
However, addressing the opening of a new initiative at UN House on Friday, aimed at engaging young people and various stakeholders on a range of issues affecting youth and to come up with solutions, Husbands said while there were several success stories in various industries, the media was guilty of not highlighting them enough.
“We spend a lot of time, however, focusing on whether it is school violence or deviances. I am suggesting that we need to spend more time focusing . . . on what it is that make Barbadian young people so successful,” he said, adding that “in the meantime we can’t bury our heads in the sand and ignore our colleagues, our brothers and sisters who face challenges”.
Husbands also touched on Government’s policy on cellphones in schools, which was to be implemented in September last year, but was delayed.
He acknowledged that the announcement was met with “a pretty rough response from some teachers, some parents, some columnists and some young people even”.
However, the education official argued that technology was a fact of life, adding the Ministry of Education was only being proactive with its policy to allow cellphone use in schools.
“There is nowhere in the world that you go where you do not meet people that are engaged in the modern technology. We have to recognize that reality and adopt a series of standards for practice of the use of technology in our classrooms,” he said, adding that while he expected some related challenges in the future “we cannot have a generation in this country growing up without all of the features of modern life that other young people around the world are being exposed to”.