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Violence in schools – a threat to progress


Fri May 16, 2014

The issues of tolerance, violence-free schools and unhindered access to education are all on the agenda as we celebrate this month of May as Child Month.

These issues have been raised in the official address of the Minister of Education Girlyn Miguel to mark the start of the month.{{more}}

The minister in her speech observes that violence seems to have become entrenched in our society and is pervasive, even in our schools. She also laments that there is an apparent willingness by many parents and adults to tolerate violent behaviour, even though this presents, in the words of the minister, “a threat to progress and development.”

This state of affairs among some of our young people, where they are drawn to the “thug life” and seem to want to embrace a life of recalcitrance, is very worrying on several levels. What kind of society will we have in 10 to 15 years when these children move into their twenties and thirties and are parents themselves?

Although the children displaying these antisocial behaviours are still in the minority, they exist in sufficient quantities for us to be concerned, not only about them, but the impact they have on the lives of their peers and the disruption they cause in their schools, homes and the wider community.

When one considers the challenges faced by children in some other parts of the world; young people who are desperate for education, but are denied this fundamental right, one cannot help but feel sad about the opportunities and resources being wasted by some of our nation’s children, some even with the support of their misguided parents.

Just think of those children in war zones and strife-torn areas who cannot go to school. In some parts of Pakistan and Afghanistan for instance, not only is there discrimination in the provision of education to girls, but serious violence is used to enforce this blatant violation of those rights.

The glaring example of Malala, the Pakistani girl who was shot in the head by Taliban gunmen for going to school, but who refuses to be cowed, is well documented.

Currently there is the tragedy of the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls, the brazen charge by crazed terrorists that Western education is not for women, and the threat to sell them into sexual slavery. This is a most abhorrent and reprehensible attack on the rights of women and their access to education. It flies in the face of modern reality where it is obvious that not only is education a key to lifting people out of poverty, but the education of women and girls is itself a liberating act, not only for them, but for their nations and the entire world.

So on one hand, we have children in this country, for whom a mostly free education is provided, but some of whom seem not to understand the importance of the opportunity given to them.

On the other hand, we have societies where young people are losing their lives and liberty, just because they dare to go to school.

The sad thing is, reaching our young people and helping them to curb their self destructive behaviors is not as easy as pointing out the opportunity they are wasting and cautioning them about the path down which they are going. A sustained, coordinated, community-wide approach should be taken, and even with that, success is not guaranteed.

We however cannot give up, not only because the future depends on them, but because somewhere along, we, today’s adults, dropped the ball.

As we move through Child Month, let us reflect on these issues and the related ones surrounding violence among and against young people. They provide us with much food for thought, reflection and action.