If the issue of underage youth having sex at school is to be addressed, it will require all hands on deck.
So says Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training Santia Bradshaw as she responded to a recent claim by a player in the local adult industry.
Hours after head of the Adult Industry Association (AIA) Charlie Spice warned Barbados was facing a high rate of underage sex in schools, Bradshaw acknowledged the trend has been “very concerning” for education officials in recent times.
She explained this was part of the reason the Ministry has been increasing resources and student support systems in schools to provide for minors engaging in inappropriate activities.
“I take the view that school is one of the places where you are able to identify a number of problems that children are experiencing and for that reason I think the support systems have to be strengthened so that teachers and guidance counsellors are in a better position to respond to what they may perceive as attitudes and behaviours not suited for children,” Bradshaw told Barbados TODAY.
Bradshaw then turned her attention to some adults who are responsible for introducing children to inappropriate sexual activities.
“We’ve been strengthening those resources to help to better counsel children and helping them to stay out of those types of activities. Those are things which have been brought to our attention where students are engaged in activities which they have been led to by adults and the Ministry of Education, once it has taken place on the school premises, we’re going to do all in our power to ensure that we pass that on to the authorities and take the appropriate action. I think that we have already started to do that,” she added.
But according to Bradshaw, the push against the worrying trend required support from numerous society groups.
“I think it is also a reflection of the challenges parents may be having in terms of supervision of their children. In tough economic times, obviously many parents are grappling with how to make ends meet as well and sometimes there are out late at night, there are out during the day and they may not be providing the supervision sometimes that the students require.
“That is why I say it is a case of all hands on deck because once you recognize what is happening, schools have an additional role to play in terms of support as do the social service agencies, as do the church and the private sector because the end result will affect us all as a society,” Bradshaw implored.
During his analysis of the current underage sex trends, Charlie Spice indicated that over the last three years, numerous videos had been making the rounds on social media depicting school-aged children engaging in sexual acts, some while clad in their uniforms.
The Education Minister contended his assessment was not an overreaction to the problem and accepted the prevalence of smartphones and other digital devices was responsible for the problem.
“I think social media has helped to make people more aware through a quicker medium than would have previously happened and I think we just have to recognise we are living in a different age of technology and things which might have been done behind closed doors all of a sudden are being recorded from children’s cell phones.
“We need to sensitise young people about the use of technology, in particular the smart phones and also to encourage them to stay away from those activities as well,” she said. [email protected]