Utter madness! Education minister decries violence in schools Loop Jamaica

The content originally appeared on: Jamaica News Loop News

Utter madness!

That’s how the Minister of Education and Youth, Fayval Williams has described the scourge of violence plaguing the nation’s school, which has left students dead and injured.

Williams used the term “utter madness” as she highlighted 55 critical incident reports, mostly related to violence in schools, which were reported to the education ministry between January 2022 and January 2023.

The affected schools are required to file a report within 24 hours of the critical incident, through the regional offices to the Safety and Security in Schools Unit at the central ministry.

Fifty-five incidents appear to be a conservative number as social media is replete with almost daily, violent clashes involving students, right across the length and breadth of the country.

Williams spoke to the issue which has educators and other stakeholders working overtime to find solutions, as she made her contribution to the 2024/25 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Wednesday.

She described violence in schools as “the immediate threat that concerns us the most in the education sector”. 

“It is true that it (violence) has overshadowed, in a most negative way, all the efforts of our principals, our teachers, parents, students and the Ministry of Education and Youth,” Williams added.

She lamented that student violence “disrupts learning and has a negative effect on students, schools and the broader communities”.

The minister noted that the 55 critical incidents occurred at 50 different schools (15 primary and 35 high schools). Five of the schools had two critical incidents each.

She said given that there are 190 school days in the school year, 55 critical incidents equate to a critical incident happening somewhere in the education sector every 3.5 school days.

“This is utter madness,” she remarked. 

Williams told the House that the incidents range from gang violence to physical assault to robbery to break-ins at the school, to school bus accidents. They also include alleged sexual grooming, drowning, vandalism, stabbing, attempted abduction, brawls, physical altercations between a principal and a parent, a fire and an alleged sexual assault.

While the minister did not mention a case of homicide during the period under review, several students have lost their lives primarily due to stabbings in recent years.

The latest such incident last month, saw 15-year-old Irwin High School student Raniel Plummer stabbed to death outside the school. A 14-year-old old schoolmate has been charged with his murder.

“While 50 schools represent approximately five per cent of the total number of primary and secondary schools in the education sector, these incidents of violence and assaults on school property are way too frequent for a small society such as Jamaica’s where most of us know each other,” said Williams.