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Education Ministry seeking police help to improve school security

Thursday, February 13, 2020

KINGSTON, Jamaica— Education Minister Karl Samuda says the suggestion by the Jamaica Teacher's Association (JTA) for the Government to provide security for teachers and students going to and from school in volatile areas is one that would have to be carefully considered.

Asked if this was a recommendation he would be willing to take to Cabinet, Samuda said any provisions that are being made across the sector would have to be approached in an equitable manner.

He was taking questions at a press conference called by the ministry today.

In the meantime, Samuda said the ministry is expecting approval from the Commissioner of Police for the assignment of two senior officers as advisors to the ministry on safety and security for schools.

“We have no expertise in security matters and in the training of people and giving of advice to teachers as to what to look out for, what measures should be taken to assist in providing security. That level of expertise to come from the Jamaica Constabulary Force and the army,” he remarked.

He said the ministry has been working with the JTA to see how best its recommendations can be incorporated, and that he had met with the association's leadership yesterday.

“I am prepared to take on board any recommendation from any source...that we regard as valuable, and that includes the JTA. I will never reject a good suggestion or even show some disfavour because it happens to come from whatever source,” he stated.

Meanwhile, enhanced security and safety measures  being rolled out by the ministry – some of them from the JTA recommendations - include the approval for 400 safety and security support officers to be provided to schools through the HOPE. Already, 184 such officers have been placed, and others are to be deployed by the end of February, Samuda said.

The personnel are being deployed mainly at primary schools to assist in the administration of the safety and security programme.

He said currently there are 154 school resource officers in over 221 schools, and that more than 1,000 hand held metal detectors to all high schools, and large primary schools. The minister also said 28 of 30 overhead metal detectors have been installed and the remaining two are to be installed within another months.

Among the recommendations reiterated and put forward by JTA president Owen Speid on Monday, was the fencing of schools, but the education minister noted that it will take $5 billion to provide adequate fencing of all institutions that need it, but that 20 have been identified under the ministry's infrastructure programme.

“Remember in many instances some of our primary schools particularly never had fences, they were open, those were the good old days when nobody would cause any disruption to take place in a school compound. Today, things have changed, and now we have to go to ensuring the protection f onto only student but the teachers, and it is very challenging,” he stated, pointing out that some teachers should have the full support of the country as in some instances they risk their lives in some environments in which they teach.

He also announced that conflict management, behavioural management and motivational session are to be rolled out in all schools across the island in April.

Alphea Saunders