Multi-sectoral approach necessary to address violence in schools in Guyana- Education Minister
Georgetown, Guyana, April 2010 - Calls for greater societal involvement to address the issue of violence in schools rang out loud and clear at a recent one-day public forum on ‘Promoting safe, acceptable behaviours and positive values in schools’, after it was revealed that over 100 students were involved in 62 reported cases of school violence over a six month period.
The forum, a joint venture between the Ministry of Education and UNICEF sought mainly to:
- sensitise participants to the roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders in promoting safe, acceptable behaviours and positive values in schools;
- identify and discuss causal factors impacting on the behaviours of students in schools;
- devise strategies to foster safer schools, acceptable behaviours and instill positive values in students; and
- develop a system of collaboration between/among stakeholders to strengthen the range of support services available to students and schools.
UNICEF Representative to Guyana, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago Dr. Suleiman Bramioh in addressing the stakeholders, urged that the right of every child be considered as even those exhibiting violent behaviour have a right to an education. He commended the Guyana government for moving to address the problem but challenged those present to avoid pointing fingers. Dr. Bramioh said he looks forward to a day when violence in schools is brought to its minimum, as countries cannot afford to not take their youths seriously. Dr. Bramioh also reaffirmed UNICEF’s support to the Ministry of Education in ensuring safer schools.
Minister of Education Shaik Baksh affirmed that the Ministry of Education remains resolute in making the school a safe and conducive place for learning. He explained that his ministry is moving aggressively to address the problems through a partnership approach, including parents, guardians and every section of society to avoid Guyana descending to the level of some of its sister CARICOM states. Minister Baksh stressed the need for head teachers to be exposed to more rigorous training in Health and Family Life Education (HFLE), a programme which has already been implemented in many schools in the country. However, he added that at the level of the Ministry, the results are not satisfactory. “We are redesigning the HFLE programme to ensure that we incorporate in the curriculum of design, more about conflict management, civic responsibility, democratic participation and peace studies,” he said.
A six-month analysis carried out across the country revealed that violence has been prevalent in 26 schools, particularly from the urban centers in Georgetown. One hundred and seventeen students were involved in various deviant activities involving the use of instruments such as ice picks, broken bottles and scissors.
However, the Minister explained that the statistics represent under three percent of schools in Guyana and a student population of 0.05 percent. According to the Minister, though incidents of violence in school are not widespread, his ministry views every such act as a matter of serious concern.
He also stressed that the Ministry will not tolerate students who pose a threat to their teachers and fellow students. Expulsion, he said, will be treated as a secondary issue. These students, the minister proposed, should be placed at the Sophia Special School where they will receive proper guidance and counselling to reverse their negative behaviour and become productive citizens in society.
Head of the Department of Social Work, University of Guyana (UG), Barbara Thomas-Holder remarked that many children are influenced by their environment and due to violence being on the rise in society; they will practice what they are exposed to, since after a while these acts will seem acceptable in the eyes of children.
Community Development and Social Policy Officer, Reverend Kwame Gilbert explained that the school system cannot function on its own to produce well rounded and productive youths since parents and the communities have integral roles to play. He stated that surveys have shown that crime rates are highest among those who grow up fatherless and that children can have a better future when they are given productive and responsible father-figures.
Executive Director, Guyana Responsible Parenthood Association, Beverly Braithwaite-Chan explained that the roles and responsibility of parents in inculcating positive values in children is crucial to the development of every child. She said that parents need to be more connected with children, especially as it relates to knowing what children are being exposed to and monitoring of these things.
Deputy Chief Education Officer (Development), Donna Chapman stated that there needs to be effective school management for safe school environments. She urged that Head-teachers organise sessions to help teachers with their responsibilities and ensure that every student is taught life skills and training. She said that teachers should be role-models to students since they are the surrogate parents in the classroom.
The final issue which was discussed was the roles and responsibilities of the media. Head of the Department of Communications Studies, UG, Dr. Paloma Mohamed explained that the media is one of several organisations of socialization in the environment. She stated that the sources of the media are trans-global, and emphasis needs to be placed on what can be realistically controlled. She explained that there needs to be a code for the way the media operates and reports especially on sensitive issues which involve children or students concerning violence or abuse. Dr. Mohamed urged that parents and teachers should monitor the usage and quality of these items since the media can cause confusion in a child’s mind.
Participants at the forum included representatives from various Parent Teachers Associations (PTAs), Headteachers and senior teachers, members of Government Ministries, non-governmental organisations and students. Students also made presentations on what influences a child’s behaviour and presented recommendations on what they think would assist in ensuring these influences are positive and promote a healthy and safe lifestyle.
For more information
Leslyn Thompson, email@example.com, UNICEF Guyana
Tamar Hahn, firstname.lastname@example.org, UNICEF Latin America and the Caribbean
UNICEF is on the ground in over 155 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.