Parris: Conflict resolution needed in school system

In light of several reported incidents of violence and indiscipline in public schools, one community-based organization has called for emphasis to be placed on conflict resolution within the learning system.

“What I think we in Barbados need now is more conflict resolution; learning how to solve conflicts without being violent or taking what some person said into consideration and taking it to heart. We need to . . . learn to resolve our conflicts in an amicable way,” said Pat Parris, President of the Togetherness Social Group.

She also suggested that parents needed to take their role more seriously and that greater respect needed to be shown to teachers.

“The students tend to spend more time at school than they spend at home so we must respect the teachers,” said Parris.

“I have a niece and nephew and sometimes they get on my nerves and that is just two of them. We have to be there for them. So you can imagine what it is like for a school with a teacher with 15 or 20 children in a classroom with different personalities, then things will happen,” she added.

Her comments follow last month’s violent incident at Ellerslie Secondary School during which a student reportedly spat on, and kicked her form teacher. Before that, a Springer Memorial student also made national headlines as her refusal to follow her teacher’s orders to pick up a wrapper led to her suspension and eventual transfer from the Government-run school. She now attends a private learning institution.

In the wake of these incidents, the island’s two teachers’ unions have revealed that the problem runs much deeper in the school system, even as they themselves have become embroiled in an ugly public controversy with the Ministry of Education over its refusal to accede to their request for a meeting.

However, President of the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) Pedro Shepherd said while he agreed there was a place for conflict resolution in seeking to amicably resolve problems, more was required to fix the broken school system.

President Pedro Shepherd
President Pedro Shepherd

“We need more than conflict resolution in schools. It is a societal problem and we have to get to the root of the problem. The indiscipline and the violence in schools is really a reflection of what is happening in society,” he told Barbados TODAY.

Though he agreed with Parris that parenting was a critical contributor to a child’s behaviour, he said: “Too many of our families are broken, too many of our families are relaxed and so persons at very tender ages are allowed to do as they like and we need to, as I said last week, bring back religious education in schools so that children understand that they are children up to a certain age, and then they become a young adult, and it is from there that they then have certain privileges.

“[But] until we bring back that to our schools, I don’t think any amount of conflict resolution in schools really would make a significant dent in what we are seeing happening,” the BUT president warned. (MM)

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