Violence in schools

Prior to the Prime Minister calling for a two week long closure of public schools effective March 13, 2020 in response to persons in Jamaica testing positive for COVID-19, the nation wasn't as concerned about school kids' health so much as their behaviour. We still believe this is worth talking about and better yet addressing, as we would hate to see everything be 'business as usual' once this period of isolation comes to an end and students return to school.

Nelson Mandela once said, “There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats its children" and what can we say but Jamaica's soul is in need of a deep cleaning.

With a recent apparent upsurge in fighting incidents at high schools, one must ask if something is terribly wrong with the Jamaican education system or in general the way in which this society treats its children. Not only are students fighting each other but even teachers are harassing students. Perhaps this was something happening ages ago however in this technological age, everything goes viral in a matter of seconds.

While students will easily get in disputes with each other, it is alarming to see teachers in heated verbal disputes, moreover physical altercations with students. It seems the Jamaican society have developed a deeply entrenched culture of violence that realistically a mere article cannot get rid of but can hopefully shed light on this dire issue.

It is unfortunate that the only problem-solving tactic we are all too familiar with involves clenching our fists and this is the same being taught to teenagers. No wonder there is an apparent increase in fighting incidents at high schools. More problematic however is when teachers become participants of the fights and not the mediators. What example then are we setting for our teenagers?

Too many times we hear that teens are too disrespectful, they should be punished, and the famous 'if it were our time…'. Yes, this generation is not perfect but other generations are not and were not perfect either. We are not justifying our actions by a seemingly nobody is perfect mantra, however, the harsh ways of 'disciplining' us aren't teaching us anything and even a blind man could see that one through.

What is more disappointing is that many persons have become insensitive to acts of violence towards children. In a recent tweet, displaying a teacher assaulting a student to the point where other teachers had to be begging for the teacher in question to stop, many persons commented that, 'everyone knows that's how that particular teacher operates and so the student shouldn't have messed with him.' While the video did not show explicitly what the student had done which warranted such a response from the teacher, in my opinion, nothing that the student did could have called for such a response from the teacher. Though very treacherous students exist, teachers should have a level of control, after all they have been given a heavy task to not only teach but to also help shape and guide the paths of students. Teachers are also empowered with varying mechanisms to sanction students as according to the handbook for each school as such these mechanisms must be employed before even the thought of a teacher getting violent.

And to what end, is discipline meted out to students when teachers display attitudes of violence? Will students know effective ways of conflict resolution when all they have experienced is a culture of violence?

Instead of quoting the famous scripture, 'do not spare the rod and spoil the child', how about you refer to the scripture that says, 'whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest… think on these things.'

-- Akeelia Richards



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