In some schools in the USA, metal detectors are common as sometimes is 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.
While the measures may appear to some as being extreme, given what unfortunately happened in the past when lives were senselessly lost to bullets, they may be deemed inadequate. After all, it has not stopped. Other menaces are bullying and gang-related violence. These are the harsh realities in some institutions of learning there, with an obvious negative impact on the student population involved.
It is not confined there and is prevalent in many other places. In Guyana, we are seeing a collaboration between the Guyana Police Force and the Education Ministry where random searches are being conducted at schools for weapons. Surprisingly, drugs, knives, screwdrivers, condoms, lighters, spanners and needles were confiscated during random searches along the East Coast of Demerara.
An important aspect of the Education Ministry’s collaboration with the Police is that the partnership involves discussion on topics of violence, crime committed at schools, gang fighting, taking offensive weapons to school, the consequences of using offensive weapons at school, being on the streets after school, respect for teachers, and cybercrimes.
Who would have thought that in the process of getting an education here in Guyana, safety in schools is becoming a primary concern? With the threats in question, it seems rightfully so.
In Guyana, we have seen several teachers being beaten by parents and also in the past there were several cases where students fight their teachers. Over time, there were other reports of students being stabbed by others or hurt by other means. Bullying, which is just another form of abuse, and even violence, was reported to be highly prevalent in many schools.
In one instance a fight among St Joseph High School students, which went viral on social media, is a good example of violence in schools.
Those represent reported cases as the understanding is many are unreported out of fear of repercussion.
Solace must not be taken in living in a changing world. Violence over the years and its extensive coverage through the media has led to seeming immunity to the gory images and now makes for casual reading.
This must not be allowed to slip into the mindsets of students and teachers. They must be free from such psychological stress and be able to focus on learning to build much needed capacity for the future of the country. All have an integral role to play in helping to repel this scourge.
While there may be compelling arguments over what may be the reasons perpetrators act the way they do and the spread of violence, immediate mitigating measures have to be derived and implemented.
Police random searches, while a potential deterrent, may not be enough in the long term as sustainability could become an issue.
Many have argued that parents and guardians need to be more involved and aware of what their children are doing, keeping an eye on any possible worrying sign. While that could still be effective in many ways, there is a challenge as the child approaches adulthood. At that stage, one’s space and privacy could present barriers. There are also social factors that contribute to disallowing such necessary intervention to some extent. That further complicates an already-complicated situation.
The situation would probably demand the establishment of a non-partisan special task force comprising skilled personnel from the relevant sections of Government and civil society to examine and recommend practical solutions within the shortest possible time.
Whatever the findings are, the resources must be found to implement, given what’s at stake. If not, the fun in learning could be evaporated.