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, the measures may be deemed inadequate. After all, violence in schools 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.
Violence in schools is not confined there, and is prevalent in many other places. In Guyana, we have, in the past, seen a collaboration between the Guyana Police Force and the Education Ministry wherein random searches were conducted at schools for potential weapons. Surprisingly, screwdrivers, knives, scissors, and toy guns were found during some of these random searches.
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, offensive weapons and, significantly, consequences.
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.
Of recent, we have seen several teachers being severely beaten by parents, and also, in the past, there were several cases in which students fought 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. The recent 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 that many cases 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, have led to seeming immunity to the gory images, and now make 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 signs. 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 interventions to some extent, which 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 of learning could be evaporated.