The Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) is calling for more action to deal with the violence in schools as a senior government minister hints at supporting the introduction of metal detectors at schools.
BUT president Pedro Shepherd said the authorities needed to take urgent action to deal with the situation noting that the matter had been widely ventilated in the past.
In recent weeks, a number of school children have been stabbed and Education Minister Ronald Jones suggested that the problem lies much deeper than wayward children.
“The issue of violence and persons in possession of sharp implements is symptomatic of deeper issues in the society and the communities. There are many undercurrents going on that would cause normally rationale children to resort to what they would term these protection devices. So the society has to understand and get to the bottom of what is causing these flare-ups and acts of violence,” he said.
But Shepherd said that the Ministry of Education should now consider placing specialised wardens at schools and allow law enforcement officials to continue their job of policing the entire country.
“Having police presence is a welcome suggestion but we would like to take it even further and to have a cadre of persons…trained and employed by the government to police our schools.
“These persons must be trained specially to deal with children. They must also wear a specific uniform. I don’t think the presence of police at schools is going to make a great difference because they from time to time be asked to press into service otherwise.”
Shepherd said that while he acknowledges that the government is facing a severe economic challenge, there was need however to deal with the violence at school urgently.
“The Barbados Union of Teachers is on record time and time again calling on the Ministry of Education and the government of Barbados to intervene at the level of policy.
“The call has been made for several social workers and more counsellors in schools, but the issue always remains a financial problem,” he said, adding “finance cannot be an issue when it comes to protecting the future of our country.
“Every effort must be made to rescue our young people and the schools are critical in that rescue mission,” Shepherd said.
Meanwhile, Health Minister John Boyce is offering guarded support to the idea of introducing metal detectors at schools in a bid to curb the violence.
Speaking in the Parliament on the ongoing debate on the Estimates of Expenditure and Revenue, Boyce said that the controversial idea may have to be reconsidered in light of the current situation.
“I would even want to urge my colleague, the Minister of Education, that he may have to re-think what up until now has been one where there was not necessarily comfortable with the presence of metal detectors in the schools.
“It is a very serious thing, so I understand the Ministry of Education thinking about that situation,” Boyce said as he defended the Police Act that had passed by legislators earlier.
He said serious action was needed to confront the level of violence in the country.
“We obviously have a very serious problem with violence in our country and the attitude of some of our adults who are guiding the minds of our children and therefore it would take serious action on our part to see to it that the criminal element does not exist with such freedom in our society as to make this wonderful country…impossible to live in,” he said.