A total of 500 schools are being targeted for restorative justice (RJ) practices this year as the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Education continue to promote alternative dispute resolution measures among the nation's youth.
Speaking at a restorative justice session with Kingston Technical High School at Hope Gardens on Tuesday, Justice Minister Delroy Chuck said his ministry believes that "restorative justice can play an important part in the lives of children in the schools".
Said Chuck: "Last year we did 232 schools, introducing [them] to restorative justice practices… This calendar year we want to do 500, and then the next one we do the remaining schools, and then we start repeating."
The move coincides with a partnership between the justice ministry and the churches in which 3,000 congregations are to be sensitised on restorative justice.
Defined as a process whereby all the parties with a stake in a particular offence come together to resolve — collectively — how to deal with the aftermath of the offence, RJ uses forgiveness in restoring peace and de-escalating conflicts.
"We have a good product [so] we're taking it to the schools, to the churches, and to the communities. Restorative justice is godsent...It is about accepting responsibility and about forgiveness, which is exactly what our Lord Jesus Christ preached," Chuck added.
He told the students that in their disagreements they must still learn to tolerate each other and respect each other's differences, while noting that resolving conflicts peacefully leads to restoring relationships.
Education and Youth Minister Fayval Williams, meanwhile, said that her ministry "supports this targeted provision of support to vulnerable individuals who are a part of the school environment".
In light of a fatal altercation at Kingston Technical High School in Kingston last year, Williams pointed out that, "as we have seen from time to time, many connected parties in the school environment need psychosocial support in the wake of traumatic events and to be socialised into an improved emotional state of mind".
In addition, the minister decried other acts of violence taking place within the schools, which are often circulated in videos across social media platforms.
"I don't know of anyone in Jamaica who is looking at these videos and really feeling good about [them]," Williams said, as she reminded the students that they will be the future of the nation.
"So, we have to devise all kinds of programmes for you to help you in your daily interactions with your peers, to understand that disagreements are going to happen as you interact. The only thing you can control is your reaction to the events that are unfolding in the moment," the minister advised.
In his remarks, Principal of Kingston Technical High School Maulton Campbell noted that the restorative justice practice "is indeed something that we welcome".
"It is going to help us in the healing process. This exercise will bear fruit for our students. It will help them to process those emotions [and] to improve their behaviour. Eventually, they're going to grow into productive citizens who are able to cope and who are more equipped with the skill sets to deal with conflicts that may arise in their lives," Campbell said.
At the close of the session the students participated in a balloon release where they wrote whatever troubles they may be facing on balloons, which were then let go on Minister Chuck's count.
This was followed by a tour of the Hope Zoo. The students were also gifted with tokens before their departure.
The session was part of Restorative Justice Week activities. This year's theme for the annual observance is 'Stories of Restoration…Everyone has a say, the RJ way'.
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