Holness Credits Safe Schools Programme with Decreasing Violence in Schools


Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, has credited the Safe Schools Programme with the decrease in violence and serious crimes in the institutions.
“In terms of the Ministry’s perspective (and) surveillance there is a decline in serious crimes in schools,” Mr. Holness told educators, parents, Jamaica Constabulary Force personnel and other stakeholders at the Schools’ Security and Safety Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown Kingston, Wednesday (October 13).
He gave as examples the fact that last year there was no murder of students in schools, and the number of serious fights decreased.
Mr. Holness also highlighted the work of Deans of Disciplines in fostering security and safety in schools. He noted that last year over 70 Deans of Discipline were deployed.
“Most schools should have a Dean of Discipline take over the behaviour management side of education.we won’t be able to take it away from the teachers but, certainly, in collaboration with the teachers, they should be able to develop a system that will lessen the work load on the teachers,” he said.
He pointed out that the policy focus is on changing culture, implementing various operational tasks and giving support to the schools. The Minister also noted that illegal activities that take place among students in schools, is also illegal under the country’s laws and should be reported to the police, allowing the necessary course of action to be taken.
Mr. Holness said the Safe Schools Programme exemplified the joint approach to ensuring safety in schools. Stressing that school is the main socialising arm of the state and not just a place to learn he noted, however, that the institutional arrangements of decades ago were insufficient to deal with today’s demands.
“Today, the school has to deal with severe overcrowding, because we have pursued a policy of giving access to education to everyone.we have said, and we stand by that policy, that education up to the secondary level is a right.(but) today we have a value system that is in trouble,” he admitted.
He stated that the lack of consistent ethos or ethics, and the fact that households were not necessarily reinforcing the values being taught in schools, has created “a sort of” conflict of relevance.
Mr. Holness also noted that the wealth of information now easily accessible to students meant a change in the structure of the relationship between teacher and student, and parents and students. He added that, in some instances, problems arose when students are not able to process and interpret information they have access to, which can affect their safety and security, over time as they are influenced by media such as the Internet, among other things.
But, he stressed that safety and security were not the sole responsibility of schools or teachers, as everyone has to get involved.
Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP) and Head of the Jamaica Constabulary Force’s (JCF) Strategic Review Implementation Team, Novelette Grant, echoed the call for community involvement. She said with each person sharing their own life lessons, children can better appreciate what their future holds.
“There are many of us who have the experience, the knowledge and the skills to go into the schools and assist.a structured programme of volunteerism to help with the development of our young persons can be accommodated within the remit of the safe schools programme,” she suggested.
She suggested that stakeholders join the Police and the Ministries of National Security, Education and Health, “and recognise that a safe community is everybody’s business”.
The conference was held to share the findings of a stakeholder consultations on the Safe Schools Programme; the vision and way forward for the programme; and information on the roles and responsibilities of key stakeholders.
Safe Schools is an initiative mandated by Cabinet with its main goal being to significantly reduce violence and anti-social behaviour in schools, by facilitating the development of problem solving in students, school administrators, and parents.
It also seeks to formulate ways for students to share their concerns and engage their families, as well as develop positive links in the communities where schools are located.
It involves the placement of law enforcement officers (School Resource Officers) from the JCF at 89 troubled schools islandwide. The officers are responsible for mentoring students and mediating in disputes; they work with the school administration to identify and monitor areas on the school compound that pose potential dangers to students; conduct security surveillance and truancy watches to ensure that students who should be in school are not on the streets; and conduct weapons surveillance.

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