Over the last few months there have been several reports of violence meted out against teachers. During this week, there were screaming headlines in the local press after a head teacher of the Number Five Primary School, West Coast Berbice was physically assaulted by a 16-year-old student.
Less than two months ago, another teacher was in the local news after she was attacked by a Fifth Form student of the Number Eight Secondary. In that case, the teacher was put in a vice and dragged around the school’s compound before two male teachers intervened. More importantly, it must be noted that the teacher was at the time attempting to protect a student from the physical advances of the very male student that attacked her. It is sad that Guyana’s school system has been reduced to such a capricious level that children are no longer afraid, and even worse, do not have respect for their teachers. 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 learnt at home. Families play an important role in creating and sustaining peaceful and inclusive societies, indispensable for sustainable and inclusive development. There are several important aspects of stable family environments ensuring children’s well-being and early socialisation, such as secure attachment and the process of the transmission and acquisition of values.
There is no doubt that in Guyana, the younger generation faces many social ills. For example, the use of illegal drugs and alcohol, crime, suicide, domestic and other forms of violence, lack of jobs, are having a huge negative impact on communities. And now more than ever before, there is need for a genuine collaborative approach, with inclusive planning and coordination, where volunteerism is a key element, to help find practical and lasting solutions to these many ills.
Through the Social Protection Ministry, the Government must pledge to support families in parenting and in imparting core values; they will also work with communities, and members of the Private Sector to recognise the importance of maintaining the family unit while promoting a safe, stable and nurturing family environment for all members.
In his Budget 2019 speech, Finance Minister Winston Jordan said programmes to reduce bullying and violence, as well as other social problems in schools, will be expanded to ensure regular school attendance. In this regard, he noted that two mobile welfare units will be introduced to expand access to a wider student population.
The Minister emphasised “Tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today!… truer words have never been said. It is for this reason that this budget allocates about 6.3 per cent of Gross Domestic Product” for the education sector.
However, while offering welfare units to counsel students, the challenges of violence among our school children cannot be dealt with alone, since a multisectoral, broad-based approach at finding solutions is required.
Given their central, strategic position in the lives of our children, schools have a crucial role to play indeed but this would require broad-based consultation with relevant stakeholders, an openness to innovative ideas and initiative and the willingness and commitment on the part of policymakers to see the entire process through.
There is no quick-fix in relation to the issue of violence in school and as such both short and long-term sustainable interventions will be needed, integrating a number of different social, governmental and Private Sector agencies.
We encourage all stakeholders, including the Private Sector and non-governmental organisations, to raise awareness of the challenges young people face at home and at school and to lobby for more support needed that would hopefully result in better children in our population. The act of a child hitting a teacher should be condemned at all levels of our society.