When consequences are not felt for wrongful actions, the likelihood of a recurrence is very high, and that is exactly what was repeated on Wednesday when a teacher was attacked and assaulted at the Graham’s Hall Primary and less than one day later another teacher this time at St Angela’s Primary School, was assaulted by a parent.
There have been too many incidents reported of assaults on educators in Guyana. It is true that teachers have grown accustomed to students misbehaving, but today that has turned into a lack of respect. And who else to better teaches children respect than their parents? But when a parent takes it upon himself/herself to walk into a school and assault a teacher over a dispute, what example is that parent setting for their children?
On Wednesday, the Education Ministry’s Chief Education Officer (CEO) Saddam Hussain in a statement said: “Whatever the circumstances, it is a reprehensible and ghastly act. It is unacceptable and will not be condoned in the least…when parents or guardians are engaged in violent acts against teachers, it goes against established values, norms, and expectations. We cannot beat teachers and then ask them to teach our children peaceful conflict resolution. He also said that the ministry will take “all appropriate” actions to ensure that all teachers continue to work in a safe and secure environment including prohibiting violent parents or guardians from having access to school premises, transferring any learner whose parents commit acts of violence on teachers or any other sanction deemed necessary while encouraging the Police or any other institution or authority to take whatever action the law prescribes.
Each time a situation like this arises, a statement emerges almost instantaneously that “violence in schools be condoned”. But rather, the question to be answered is: What tangible security steps have been implemented?
Some time ago the media reported another instance where a teacher at St Agnes Primary School was attacked and kicked several times.
The hierarchy at the Education Ministry at the time of that attack at St Agnes Primary School in 2020 had said that some “crucial decision will be taken and instituted in an effort towards ensuring that incidents of this nature would not be repeated,” does not answer that question. As was previously stated, it is sad that Guyana’s school system has been reduced to such a capricious level. But while many may want to cast blame on the school system for this degradation, it must be understood that moral values and respect are aspects of children’s development that are learned at home. Families play an important role in creating and sustaining peaceful and inclusive societies, which are indispensable for sustainable and inclusive development.
While it is conceded that there is no quick fix in relation to the issue of violence in school, there must, however, be stringent security measures in place to protect our teachers. While do not necessarily disagree with the Guyana Teachers Union’s (GTU’s) call for all teachers to dress in black in a show of solidarity with their assaulted colleagues more than just that needs to be done. It is time the GTU sits with the Education Ministry to truly address the safety of our educators. To simply criticised the sidelines each time a teacher is attacked is not offering any tangible solution to the problem. The GTU needs to do more representation than just criticism. Children spend the better part of their lives with their teachers, and these very teachers, with open hearts, pave the way for children and oftentimes take on the impossible tasks of managing misbehaving children. There was a time when parents recognised this and showed teachers the respect they deserve. There was a time also when a strict warning from a teacher was enough to get a child back in line. Seems that those times have faded in our memory. The impact of assaulting a teacher takes an emotional toll, not only on the individual but on his/her family. This can be devastating but does not stop there, since the school itself is impacted.
The act of a parent hitting a teacher should be condemned at all levels of our society. Lack of respect for our teachers has evolved into a more serious situation and should be dealt with in the severest of manners.