Opposition Spokesperson for 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 statement, the current situation escalates the issue from just one that needs to be solved by individual schools to one that requires policy direction from the Department of Education and Youth (MOEY).
“Given the upsurge in violent activity, I believe this is now an issue that is no longer being addressed at the school level, school by school. I believe it now needs to be brought to a higher level in the Department of Education, in government, so that a formal, coordinated program can be developed, using the data that emerges from the incidents we have seen,” Brown-Burke said.
Since the restart of partial face-to-face lessons in January and the full resumption some time later, several videos have been circulating on social networks showing schoolchildren involved in fights and other anti-social activities.
Two schoolchildren were also killed recently. William Knibb Memorial High School daCosta Cup football goaltender Kamal Hall was stabbed on school premises by a classmate, while Papine High’s Kenuth Williams was fatally shot during a ‘a robbery on the school grounds on Liguanea Avenue in St Andrew.
Another pupil was stabbed at Excelsior High School in St Andrew. This latest incident was allegedly committed by another student at the school last Wednesday outside the school’s front door, with the injured student later being treated in hospital.
According to Brown-Burke, government action, through the Department of Education, must include adequate resources to identify the root causes of the problem and then address the problem.
“The ministry’s coordinated program must include enough school nurses, psychologists, social workers and others who can help understand, identify, analyze and treat the problems we see children presenting with,” Brown said. Burke.
She felt this was especially needed to return schools to being safe places for children, as she said many homes and communities are not safe environments for children nationwide.
“What is clear is that it now makes schools unsafe in many ways, and there are parents, because some have told me this, that they wonder if schools are a safe place to their children.
“We need to make sure that we keep schools safe, and the ministry needs to provide a model of guidance and some kind of direction to help schools make sure they are able to do that,” Brown said. – Burke.
She believes ministry actions should also involve parents, churches, communities and civic organizations working together as partners to address the global issue.