Government is taking a no-tolerance stance to violence in the island’s schools.
Prime Minister Mia Mottley made the declaration Saturday after a meeting of stakeholders in the education sector.
Present were three representatives of each of the following teachers’ unions and principals’ associations: Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union, Barbados Union of Teachers, Barbados Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, and the Association of Public Primary School Principals.
Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw, other ministry officials, teachers and stakeholders in the youth affairs and social services, police commissioner Tyrone Griffith and Barbados Defence Force chief of staff Colonel Glyne Grannum were also in attendance at the meeting which was held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre (LESC)
“There can be no tolerance in this country for any child to believe that they are in a position to threaten or attack any teacher or their parents or any adult in this country. If we allow this to happen we will be surrendering our country to lawlessness and to young people who will not come to appreciate that their behavior is unacceptable in every form,” said the Prime Minister.
The meeting was in response to the scourge of violence in the school system. Prime Minister Mottley described the violence in society as “a public health condition” that needs to be immediately addressed.
“We have a duty as a nation to condition violence out of the next generation,” the Prime Minister emphasized.
Mottley outlined a slew of initiatives that will be implemented to address the violence in schools. She announced that Government will be creating a residential facility similar to the Edmund Nicholls Centre which caters to troubled children. Within the next two weeks, the Government will be forming a group or committee that will assist in stabilizing and managing of at-risk children.
Mottley also declared that a legislative framework was in the works whereby the chief education officer, in the absence of the parent can consent to intervention for a student. This consent will be given following discussions with the student’s principal, social workers, and psychologists.
The Prime Minister stated that less than 200 students were guilty of acts of violence or deviant behavior in schools. She argued that the initiatives proposed by the Ministry of Education sought to prevent troubled students “from going to Dodds or the Government Industrial School”.
Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Sanita Bradshaw revealed that an additional guidance counselor will be assigned to the schools deemed at risk. She indicated that the safety officers assigned to the terminals and school routes were expected to work with guidance counselors in identifying students that needed attention.
Bradshaw also announced that social workers will be entering into the primary institutions for the first time to address issues of violence and deviance from an early age.
“Nobody becomes deviant at the age of 16, the patterns have shown that the signs are there often at the primary school level, sometimes even manifesting at the nursery school level and it is really a situation that we have to start and deal with this issues at the root cause,” said the Minister of Education.
Bradshaw went on to beseech parents be more involved in the lives of their children. She called on parents to actively participate in the parent-teacher associations and promised that the Minister of Education will assist parents where intervention is needed.
“It is high time that we don’t only pay attention when the children have gone into secondary school or when it is around the exam or third form year where they go on to specialize . . . it is now time for parents to pay attention to their charges on a regular basis.”