The violence manifesting itself in the country’s schools and larger society has its roots in a failure to communicate.
Minister of Education, Technological and Vocational Training, Santia Bradshaw, made this comment today as she addressed students, teachers and principals at a rally hosted by the Frederick Smith Secondary School in Queen’s Park, The City.
The rally was preceded by a march through Bridgetown by students from a number of public secondary schools bearing placards with anti-violence messages.
“So, today you are gathered here in your numbers… I want to thank you for marching and walking with the students of the school in solidarity against something that has got some deep roots in our society, and that is violence. Violence is happening not just in our schools; violence is happening in our communities; it is happening in our homes.
“We are violent in the way we speak to each other and the way we address people sometimes. I remember a few years ago talking about even how in Parliament people addressed each other because I felt that even at the highest institution in the country we owed it to set an example for all of you students in the way we spoke to each other across the floor,” she stated.
Ms. Bradshaw said that the stabbing death of a student by another student which occurred at Frederick Smith Secondary a few weeks ago could have played out at any school, or in any part of society.
However, she told students that such violence “does not have to be the norm in our society”. The minister further added that those students who came together for the march and rally had started the conversation that they did not like what was happening in society, or within their school communities.
She also cited bullying and gambling as two of the major problems plaguing schools, and called on everyone to play their part to stamp out violence in schools.
“I would not want that we march and nothing else happens. I don’t want us to [just] write on placards but we have to internalize what it means to be able to tell a student when they are going wrong. You all have a responsibility not just to yourselves but to your schools, to the institutions from which you come, to your families, communities and to your country to help us to stamp out the violence and to say when things are going wrong,” she emphasized.
The Education Minister also urged teachers to dig deeper when they saw children acting out since there could be latent reasons for their disobedience. She also pointed out that every student needed to have his/her voice heard.
“I believe all of you have opinions not just about school but about Barbados and the Barbados that you want to live in. And together, we must find a way to be able to make sure you have those opportunities to speak out and to be active citizens not only when you reach adulthood, but also in your school environment….
“We have made a commitment in the ministry to no longer see ourselves as just ministry and students, ministry and teachers, ministry and union but to see each other as stakeholders where every person’s opinion matter,” Minister Bradshaw stated.
She said the only way the Frederick Smith Secondary School would be able to settle down was if all the stakeholders in education put aside their agendas.
“There isn’t a teacher agenda; there isn’t a union agenda; there isn’t a ministry agenda; there isn’t a student agenda. Tragedy has taught us that when something happens, there is only one agenda and it is family,” she opined, adding that following the stabbing incident at Frederick Smith, she saw staff and teachers at the school as part of the ministry’s family.