The Opposition Spokesperson on Education and Training, Dr Angela Brown-Burke, is imploring the Government to tackle the wave of violence involving children, which is affecting schools across the island.
According to Brown-Burke, who was speaking in a video release, the current situation elevates the problem from just being an issue that needs to be tackled by individual schools, to one that requires a policy direction from the Ministry of Education and Youth (MOEY).
“Given the spate of violent activities, I believe that it has now moved from being an issue that is addressed at a school level, school by school. I believe that it has to be brought now to a higher level at the Ministry of Education, at the Government, so that a formal, coordinated programme can be worked out, using data that is emerging from the incidences that we have seen,” said Brown-Burke.
Since the restarting of partial face-to-face classes in January and the full resumption some time later, several videos have been circulating on social media showing schoolchildren involved in fights and other anti-social activities.
Two schoolboys were also killed recently. William Knibb Memorial High School’s daCosta Cup football goalkeeper, Kamal Hall, was stabbed on the school premises by a schoolmate, while Papine High’s Kenuth Williams was shot and killed in a robbery off the school compound on Liguanea Avenue in St Andrew.
Another student was stabbed at Excelsior High School in St Andrew. That latter incident was reportedly done by another pupil at the institution last Wednesday outside the school’s front gate, with the injured student being subsequently treated at hospital.
According to Brown-Burke, the Government’s action, through the Ministry of Education, needs to include adequate resources to identify the root causes of the problem, and then solve the problem.
“Included in the coordinated programme from the ministry has to be enough school nurses, psychologists, social workers and other individuals who can help to understand, identify, analyse and deal with the issues that we are seeing the children presenting with,” said Brown-Burke.
She opined that this is especially needed to return schools to being safe places for children, as she said many homes and communities are not safe environments for the nation’s children.
“What is clear is that it is now making schools unsafe in so many ways, and there are parents, because some have said that to me, that they (are) wondering whether schools are a safe place for their children.
“We have to ensure that we keep the schools as a safe place, and the ministry has to give some guidance template and some kind of direction to help the schools in making sure that they are able to do that,” said Brown-Burke.
She believes that the ministry’s actions should also involve parents, churches, communities and civic organisations working together as partners to solve the overall problem.