On Tuesday, a video of a New Amsterdam Technical Institute student violently assaulting colleagues went viral.
On social media, persons expressed disgust as the teen is seen removing his belt and inflicting blows on his colleagues. But more worrying is that the mother of the teenager in the video has since taken to social media, justifying her son’s behaviour claiming that the students he violently assaulted had teased him about his lunch.
Violence in schools locally has always faced the harsh realities that in some cases when teachers act to curtail students from such behaviour, they too are retaliated against by parents and in some cases, face the physical wrath of these parents.
In this particular case, whatever the grouse in the end, the students were violently attacked.
The newspaper has previously pointed out that the increase in violence among our youth is cause for great concern. On numerous occasions, local news agencies’ headlines are replete with accounts of the incidents and the statistics speak to troubling trends in relation to youth involvement in crime.
As previously stated also, this is a broader societal problem, but given the fact that our schools are a microcosm of the society, we now have another major issue that the education system needs to address head on. This is a challenge that the education system alone is ill-equipped to fully address and one that truly requires a multi-sectoral, broad-based approach at finding solutions.
Schools have been hard-pressed to find workable solutions to the various manifestations of violence, which, for some time, have emerged as major detractions from the traditional business of schooling.
There have been numerous accounts of the level of deviant behaviour occurring in schools. Teachers have long voiced their concerns in relation to their sense of powerlessness in the face of the increasing number and severity of the incidents which are occurring. More troubling are the accounts of these issues occurring at increasingly younger ages.
Teachers have noted that our children at astonishingly low levels in the system are demonstrating unprecedented levels of anger and aggression. In consultations aimed at finding possible solutions, many teachers have attributed the new rules limiting the use of corporal punishment in schools as a major contributory factor.
Others have cited the absence of the male presence in schools as another significant element. There has been widespread recognition that our schools lack the requisite human and material resources to adequately take on this new challenge.
The guidance counsellors, school welfare officers and social workers who serve the system are in short supply. As a result, the bulk of the responsibility for dealing with this new challenge falls back on the teachers themselves—a source of great resentment on the part of teachers.
Teachers have maintained that the nucleus of the issue is not within the school system and have openly declared that they should not therefore be saddled with the responsibility of addressing same. In addition, they highlight the fact that they lack the training and specialised skills required to adequately deal with the emerging challenges.
Given their central, strategic position in the lives of our children, schools have a crucial role to play in any approaches devised. 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 this issue, and both short and long-term sustainable interventions will be needed, integrating a number of different social, governmental and Private Sector agencies.
Projecting forward, plans will have to be devised to seamlessly integrate programmes into the structures of the education system. Mechanisms must be put in place to monitor and evaluate the various interventions, identify best practices, and share information.
This issue requires a comprehensive, collective effort that will facilitate the development of balanced, well-adjusted youths with positive outlooks on life. Ultimately, the quality of life we experience going forward will depend significantly on the steps we take to address the challenges facing our children today.