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Violence in school – a reflection of the home and society

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Fri, Oct 31, 2014

We do not know the details of the circumstances which led to a student from the Dr J P Eustace Memorial Secondary School being blinded in one eye earlier this week, but from all reports, the teenage girl sustained the injury during a violent clash with another student during class time.{{more}}

This very sad and unfortunate incident is just an extreme example of the inappropriate interaction between and among students, which we have been told takes place in our nation’s schools on a regular basis. Tuesday’s incident is particularly sad, because unlike most of the other school incidents we hear about, most of which result in bumps and bruises, in this case, a teenage girl has been left with a visual impairment for the rest of her life.

About six months ago, during Child Month, Minister of Education Girlyn Miguel, in her address to mark the start of the month, observed that violence seems to have become entrenched in our society and is pervasive, even in our schools. This observation is valid and the phenomenon is one which should be expected. What takes place in society is reflected in our schools, as our children take with them, to the various places of formal learning, not just their laptops, books, pens and pencils, but all the baggage they are saddled with from their home and community situations.

Those children who are victims of abuse of various kinds – sexual abuse, neglect, emotional abuse, violence, or have learning disabilities, or simply are victims of poor parenting, are the ones most likely to take out their frustrations on schoolmates, teachers and school property, when placed under pressure.

One never knows what are the individual circumstances of children who “act out” in school, but whatever the issues they are dealing with, we, the adults, have to meet them where they are. It is our responsibility to have compassion and tackle both the root causes of the behaviour and the effect of that behaviour on society.

Two years ago, at a symposium held on the occasion of Universal Children’s Day, it was disclosed that people between the ages of 19 and 25 make up 35 per cent of the prison’s population. Would it be a stretch to assume that most of these offenders first gave signs that they were troubled while they were students in our schools?

So what do we do? Tackling anti-social behaviour is easier said than done however, and is a problem that has been debated for decades. The majority of our schools are now staffed with counselors, but many of these professionals are overwhelmed by the large numbers of students needing help, the complexity and adult nature of the problems the children are battling, and limited resources, including the absence of specialized services to which the children could be referred.

But the problem is not just one of the school. This is a problem that must be tackled on several fronts, with all concerned working in tandem, both with the child and the parents. The parents must first accept that there is a problem and be willing to accept the help offered by competent, trained persons in the government agencies and the churches. Although the problem is complex, we cannot give up. Let us all work together with renewed energy to save our children from themselves.

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