Thousands of miles away from Barbados yesterday, 19 students were killed and dozens hurt when a student went on a shooting spree at a college in Russia.
The shooter, 18-year-old Vladislav Roslayakov, was later found on the compound dead from what officials said were self-inflicted gunshot wounds.
From this distance, we can only express sadness at the senseless loss of life and do all we must here at home to ensure our youth never resort to such heinous acts.
Nonetheless, violence permeates our students and schools.
Last year in particular, there were violent incidents of one sort or another at several schools. Thankfully, this term has been largely incident-free, thanks in no small part to concerted efforts by the Ministry of Education, teachers, parents, students and civil society groups who engaged in various initiatives to arrest the problem.
Of note is the Peace Begins With Me initiative launched back in July in response to the worrying incidents of bullying and violence.
Along with Peace Ambassador Ayra Newton, entertainers Peter Ram, Mole, Faith and Philip 7 teamed up to spread the student-friendly message to solve conflict peacefully.
The artistes have performed at eight secondary schools thus far and are planning to cover the remaining 17 by the end of the school term.
This morning, the programme was in action at Grantley Adams Memorial and from the response, it was clear that the message resonated with the youngsters.
Mole told Barbados TODAY: “It has been a great experience. I like working with the youth because they cling to me. So once I can help them and cut down the violence I like it.”
Faith was equally pleased: “As the campaign song says – we are one family, so treat each other as a brother or sister.”
Grantley Adams Principal Valdez Francis also endorsed the initiative: “When the artistes are there performing they are engaging and out of the engagement comes a message that they are leaving.”
School interventions like this campaign are worthwhile and we hope will stamp out violence, which has no place in the classroom.
Children are like sponges, soaking up and repeating the actions in their environment. With mentoring and positive wholesome interactions with these popular artistes, we are certain that the tide can begin to turn in favour of positive behaviour and away from anomie and senseless violence.
The more we can instill sound attitudes and behaviours in our youth, the greater results we will have in producing not only peaceful young citizens, but productive ones who can focus their energies, skills and talents to enhance society.
But the work must not end in the classroom.
Home remains a child’s first training ground and parents must lead by example and impart sound instruction that violence is unacceptable.
Parents need to be careful about how they advise their charges to tackle conflict. Messages like, ‘if someone hits you, don’t take it, hit them back,” lay the foundation for the bullying and violence we all abhor. Resorting to violence is not the answer.
The best practice is to advise children to report any issues they encounter to their teachers or another adult. Children should also be taught that there is no shame in walking away from conflict.
Sadly though, not all children will heed what they are taught. Some will slip through the cracks and may even find themselves before the law courts.
Then, let us not be quick to write them off.
With the right counselling and support, offenders can be taught conflict resolution techniques and other coping skills to turn their lives around.
Everyone deserves a second chance. But let’s do more than give our young people a fighting chance to make positive choices in a world of violence. Four Barbadian artistes led by example today, and we salute them in the hope they are emulated.