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Jamaica to tackle violence in schools

School violence programme.

School violence programme.

KINGSTON — The Ministry of Education, in an effort to reduce violence in schools, says it will this summer introduce several initiatives, including a redefinition of the roles of guidance counsellors and deans of discipline.

The extent of the problem was contained in a Ministry Paper tabled in the House of Representatives by Education Minister Ronald Ronnie Thwaites last week showing that there were 1,288 reported incidents of violence in schools in the last academic year.

They include 915 fights, 160 robberies and three murders. School Resource Officers reportedly seized 1,288 weapons, including 431 knives and 486 pairs of scissors and arrested 201 students, cautioned 2,361 students and monitored 1,109. According to the report, illegal substances were seized on 164 occasions.

The ministry also said that within the past two months high school students have been at the centre of 12 violent crimes on compounds.

“While these are serious, Cabinet should note that of the almost 700,000 students enrolled in Jamaican schools, only a fraction, including many teenaged girls, are involved in violent behaviour. It is noteworthy that in all the recent violent incidents, the students involved, and often the victims as well, had records of disruptive behaviour or violence,” the ministry said.

It further noted that “neither curriculum nor permitted disciplinary measures sufficiently address the social and behavioural challenges of disturbed students”.

It said the issues at the heart of the behaviours include absent parents, lack of leadership and role models in schools, severe financial pressures and disinterest in studies of at least a quarter of the high school cohort.

As such, the ministry said the redefinition of the roles of the guidance counsellors and deans of discipline will involve individual counselling, home contacts and anticipatory strategies.

It will also be seeking to carry out “intense training of new teachers and retrain teachers already in the service in positive discipline come summer 2013”.

In addition, parents will be included in a behaviour training and modelling course in summer as well.

In the meantime, the Code of Regulations under the Education Act is to be redrafted by the end of this year to specifically permit physical restraint of dangerous students and to broaden the range of incentives and sanctions available to school authorities. (Observer)

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