School, an institution of learning, has now become a dangerous place in Guyana. Over the past few months there have been numerous reports of fights, assaults and even drug trade in our learning facilities. The situation has now spiral that even the smallest of misunderstandings – even among teachers and parents – are turning into violent fights. On Thursday, this uncontrollable violence among our children manifested again when a Linden Foundation Secondary School student stabbed another to her back with a Rambo knife. The shocking video of the incident shows that even after being stabbed no one immediately assisted the injured student. Whatever the grouse in the end, the pertinent question is what was a 15-year-old doing with a Rambo knife. This fight occurred right outside the school’s compound. This therefore means that the teen had the knife among her belongings at school. This in itself speaks volume. In the United States some schools have metal detectors and sometimes the presence of a Police patrol on the outskirts. Some may be tempted to ask why in a country that is rich and is the bastion of freedom and democracy. Others may counter that, exactly because of what the country represents, it can afford to have such mechanisms in place. The answer basically lies in trying to curb violence in schools. The truth curbing violence among children in and out of school, is not the responsibility of Guyana’s Education Ministry alone as it could be viewed as a reflection of what the society has become. Hence, it would take a great deal of effort by all stakeholders, including, parents, teachers, social workers/ councilors, churches and community leaders to come up with tangible solutions. All of these stakeholders must become aware of their roles and take action. In instances of children, firstly parents and the church plays an important public service role within the community and immediate environs in which each individual edifice is located. In Guyana, there is no doubt that the church – whether Christian, Hindu (temple) or Muslim (masjid) – plays a significant role, both socially and otherwise. However, there seems to be a need for a more dominant role of these institutions in tackling violence among youths. These religious institutions make a difference in people’s everyday lives and many of our churches are deeply rooted in communities. It is through this medium that these religious institutions can impact violence among children.
The United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) has pointed to research which shows that prevention efforts – by teachers, administrators, parents, community members, and even students – can reduce violence. As such a second approach is the implementation of school-based violence prevention programs, which have been proven in other counties to reduce rates of aggression and violent behaviour among students. These programs should be delivered to all students in a school or a particular grade and focus on many areas, including emotional self-awareness, emotional control, self-esteem, positive social skills, social problem-solving, conflict resolution, and teamwork. Further, positive relationships between students and their peers, teachers, and families can be critical assets in promoting youth’s well-being and preventing school violence. Several strategies to enhance these relationships have been found to be effective in reducing violence. Therefore strengthening young people’s abilities to effectively solve difficulties that arise and their opportunities to participate in prosocial activities can significantly reduce the risk for violence. Also, as stated earlier, there is also an important role for parents to play in preventing violence in our schools. Prevention approaches that involve the family and so parents should be aware of their children’s activities. Parents cannot leave that responsibility to educators and Police. It is important for children to understand that there are amicable ways resolve differences without involving in violence. It is also important that parents understand that if a child commits a criminal act, they may be held legally accountable. A child’s criminal actions can be transferred to his/her parents.