How to fight a bully

The rise of school violence in the Caribbean and the measures to fight it.
Photo credit: Carsten ten Brink via Flikr

Blood pumping, sweat dripping, fists tightening. The cheering of my supporters keeps the adrenaline bubbling inside me, even after my knuckles collide with the left side of my opponent’s cheek. The knife in my back pocket tempts me as my determination to impress my classmates increase with each passing moment. I must defend my title. I am simply a bully in a school courtyard.

School violence amongst secondary school students has been rapidly increasing over the years, causing great concern for parents, teachers and society as a whole. Thus, it has been a major issue and a priority to the various Ministries of Education throughout the Caribbean. For instance, in Trinidad and Tobago, The Ministry of Education released statistics revealing that during the years 2009-2010, 3,300 students were suspended from school, while 2,200 were suspended in 2012. There have also been extreme cases, as observed in 2013, where a 14 year old boy was stabbed to death by another classmate. Similarly, in Jamaica, School Resource Officers reportedly seized 431 knives, 1,288 weapons and arrested 201 students in one academic year.

Particularly, fights among young boys have been on the rise, which have led many experts to do intensive research in this specific field. Devanand Sinanan, president of the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teacher’s Association (TTUTA) from 2013 to 2016 , strongly believes that the root of the problem is not originated in the school, but rather within the household. “The behaviour in school is symptomatic of a deeper social reality that currently exists,” he stated.

He perceived the violent behaviour of students to be a reflection of what is witnessed in their homes and it additionally corresponds with poor academic achievement. As such, the phenomenon of school violence not only affects the safety of students, but it is also associated with absenteeism and little participation within the classroom.

Due to its continuous increase and violent repercussions, experts have also shown interest in accumulating both ideas and resources to aid in the alleviation of school violence. In Trinidad and Tobago, many national consultations were held, with the aim of creating viable solutions that can be implemented in the national education plan, to help curb the issue at hand, not temporarily but permanently. Sinanan stated that he expected the consultations, “to bring ideas to move forward, not just for five years, but a longer period.”

After research and analysis in a variety of schools around the country, he stated that two of the major issues allowing school violence to flourish, are the lack of supervision in and out of the classroom and the physiological burden that witnessing violence at home has on children.

According to the first Vice President of the National Parent Teacher Association, Maureen Taylor-Ryan, “children who are violent in schools are simply playing out the reality of what they live.”

In 2015, to combat these issues, sufficient guidance counselors and deans of discipline were introduced in each secondary school, in both Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. This allows the school to provide the counselling necessary to the most vulnerable and disadvantaged students, which are observed by teachers to be the most distant and aggressive within the classroom.

By allocating more funds towards education, the government recruited more teaching staff, as well as security officers, to be placed in secondary schools, to increase the supervision of students during school hours.

More parent teacher meetings, the installations of cameras around the school compound and the frequent visitation of motivational speakers were other measures worthy of mention that were implemented by Trinidad and Tobago’s Ministry of Education in 2015. However, that school violence continued to be rampant during 2016. Will our young boys and girls learn from their mistakes and want better for themselves? Or is this the destiny of the next generation to come?

Caribbean Connections
Amrita Dass

Amrita Dass is currently a year 2 student at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine pursuing her degree in Environmental Sciences and Sustainable Technology.
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