Fri | Sep 22, 2023

Education ministry receives support from UNLIREC to combat violence in schools

Published:Thursday | June 1, 2023 | 8:54 PM
Minister of Education and Youth, Fayval Williams (left), embraces grade 10 Holy Trinity High School student, Latoya Lewis. Looking on is State Minister in the Ministry, Marsha Smith. The occasion was the opening ceremony of the ‘Tackling the Presence of Firearms in Schools’ national seminar, held today at the Spanish Court Hotel in St Andrew. - Contributed photo

The Ministry of Education and Youth is receiving support from the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (UNLIREC), to ramp up efforts to stamp out violence in schools.

A National Seminar, 'Tackling the Presence of Firearms in Schools', was held today to discuss the issue and measures to combat the problem.

The objective of the seminar was to promote dialogue among the various sectors and actors to reflect on causes, impacts and challenges posed by the presence and use of firearms in schools, as well as to discuss responses and measures to address and prevent these incidents.

Another objective of the seminar was to identify preventive actions and propose good practices from other countries from the region to address this issue.

It targeted representatives of the public sectors of education, citizen security, children, and youth, as well as representatives of school entities, civil society organisations and specialists working on school-violence-prevention issues.

Addressing the seminar's opening ceremony today at the Spanish Court Hotel in Kingston, Minister of Education and Youth, Fayval Williams, said available data do not suggest that Jamaica has had many incidents of firearms being brought onto school campuses or used in conflicts by students.

“Nevertheless, we must move to crush the possibility at its earliest stages, through a multipronged approach addressing the elements that put people, especially our children and young people, at risk,” she added.

Williams said violence by and among students in schools and elsewhere often results from many contributing factors, including community disputes, dysfunctional family relations, maladaptive behaviour by students, and sometimes the easy access to weapons.

Citing data from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF), the minister said between 2019 and 2022, 875 children between the ages of 15 and 17 had been charged for major crimes. These included 79 for murder, 66 shooting charges, 175 for rape, 175 for break-ins, 89 for robbery, 65 for aggravated assault, and 256 for breaches of the Firearms Act, which include illegal possession of a firearm.

Meanwhile, Director of UNLIREC, Soledad Urruela, said this initiative is timely against the backdrop of increased violent incidents among youth and with the presence of firearms in school environments in the Latin America and Caribbean region in the last decade.

“UNLIREC, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Youth, organised this meeting with the aim of promoting a national dialogue among the different sectors, so that together we can reflect on the different forms of violence in schools, its impact and challenges and to identify actions and solutions to prevent it and, in particular, to prevent the presence of firearms in schools,” she said.

Director, Multilateral Technical Cooperation, External Management Division, Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ), Delores Wade, said the initiative is part of preventive and ameliorative measures by the Government and its stakeholders to address the issue.

“We anticipate that the seminar will contribute to improved understanding of the current reality, including the levels of threat and the strategies that are being employed in the system. By extension, we hope to glean further insight into how this situation can be changed,” she said.

The national seminar was organised by UNLIREC, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education and Youth, and the PIOJ.

The seminar is part of the United Nations' Saving Lives Entity (SALIENT) Fund project, which aims to reduce violence and the proliferation of illicit firearms in Jamaica.

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