Teacher ultimatum - JTA gives education ministry 30 days to crack down on school violence
The Jamaica Teachers’ Association (JTA) has given the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information 30 days to submit a plan of action to curb violence in schools.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness is the de jure minister, while Karl Samuda is the stand-in minister without portfolio.
At a press conference yesterday, President Owen Speid lamented that the union had received “numerous reports” from teachers and other stakeholders. He, however, did not offer any specific data.
“We are concerned about the impact of violence on the education system, as the vicious cycle continues to affect the schools, the homes, and the society at large,” Speid lamented.
“We believe that there is the need for review of minimum standards for all schools with security receiving priority. Perimeter fences should be mended, cameras should be installed, trained security personnel should be put in place, especially in volatile areas,” said Speid during a media briefing.
Among the recommendations presented were to have police personnel in the vicinity of school entrances during commencement and dismissal.
Speid does not foresee an impact on the minds of young children.
“There is absolutely no downside to having police presence. People tend to respect the police to a certain extent, and they know that the police are not there to brutalise people during those times – they are just there for protection,” he told The Gleaner.
The JTA president is also worried that a significant amount of teaching time is wasted on “disciplinary breaches”.
He listed a number of schools that have suffered attacks on teachers and security breaches, and called for legal sanctions for persons who commit such breaches.
Those situations, he said, were causing a “deleterious effect on the school system as teachers are afraid and traumatised”.
Speid also used the opportunity to express condolences to the relatives of students and teachers who have been brutally murdered since the start of the year.
Fifteen-year-old Jaheim Palmer was killed in a gun attack in Phoenix Park, Portmore, St Catherine, on Sunday.
The Ascot High student was riding a motorcycle along a dirt track when he was pounced upon by a group of gunmen, who opened fire.
He was pronounced dead at the Spanish Town Hospital.
Lennon High student Jevaughn Smith, 17, was murdered shortly after midnight on Friday after armed men kicked in the door of his home on Juno Crescent, May Pen. A four-year-old was also injured.