What violence?

The Ministry of Education’s position on student-on-teacher violence became murkier today with Minister of Education Ronald Jones stating he was unaware of the latest reports of violence.

Jones told reporters covering the Democratic Labour Party’s (DLP) lunchtime lecture he would not comment on the issue because he had received no official reports of attacks by students on teachers.

“I am not aware of any incidents. Someone asked me about it this week as well but I haven’t had a chance to do so as yet. I will look into it so I would be able to properly respond,” Jones said.

The issue of student-on-teacher violence exploded to the fore in mid-April after a teacher at Ellerslie Secondary School was allegedly spat on and kicked by a student who she had attempted to verbally discipline.

However, both the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) and the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) have said it was not an isolated case.

In January 2015, BSTU President Mary Redman stated that violence against teachers was a major problem in schools, citing as examples teachers being subjected to assault and battery by their charges, including a teacher who had been attacked on three occasions and his vehicle vandalized.

Last year, BUT President Pedro Shepherd also spoke of teachers being intimidated by students who took weapons to school.

Both Shepherd and Redman have described the escalation of violence in some schools as rendering those institutions “war zones”.

Asked today whether he was concerned about this situation, Jones did not give a direct response, saying instead he had received only one official report – the one on the Ellerslie incident. He did not reveal details of this report.

In late April, Jones announced the establishment of a broad-based committee to investigate violence in schools.

He said at the time the committee would have been established within a week of the announcement and would look into student-on-student violence and student-on-teacher violence, as well as cases of teacher-on-student violence “if that exists”, and would recommend ways to resolve the issue and enhance security at schools.

He made no reference to the committee during his lecture today on the changing face of education in Barbados.

The minister spent time defending his decision not to release a top ten list from this year’s Barbados Secondary Schools’ Entrance Examination, arguing that some people were simply missing the point.

“As I reflected from last year to this year I saw the frenzy of last year and the year before and year before. In this country they are missing the point. You have a Maths paper and three boys scored one hundred [and] a plethora of 90’s. Two sums is the difference between a child who scores 100 and 95. We should not divide our children by just two sums,” Jones said at the DLP’s George Street Auditorium headquarters.

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