$20 Million Boost for Safe Schools Programme


Government’s effort to reduce violence in schools has been boosted with a $20 million grant from the European Union to fund the Safe Schools Programme.
The allocation, which was made in May, is in addition to budgetary support from the Government of Jamaica and should finance the various facets of the programme until the end of the 2006 academic year.
Assistant Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Youth and Culture, Dr. Deloris Brissett made the announcement as she addressed the second in a series of symposia on the programme at the Wyndham Rose Hall Hotel in Montego Bay on June 9. Implemented in September 2004, the Safe Schools Programme involves collaboration among the Ministries of Education, Youth and Culture, Health and National Security to reduce violent behaviour in schools by creating safe zones.
As part of the initiative, police officers have been appointed School Resource Officers (SROs) to maintain a presence in the institution and develop strategies to reduce aggression among students. The programme is now in place in 77 of the island’s primary and secondary schools.
Turning to the programme’s objective of reducing violence in schools by 40 per cent in the first year, and by 70 per cent in five years, Dr. Brissett said the target could only be achieved through a similar lessening in societal crime.
Programme coordinator Monica Dystant, explained that a team approach was essential to the success of the initiative and made a plea for continued collaboration among the stakeholders.
She informed that a base-line study was being carried out in 10 of the participating schools to measure resilience, analyze the risk factors, and identify priority areas.
In his address, Deputy Superintendent of Police Norman Heywood, informed that youngsters aged 12 to 18, were responsible for 14 per cent of all murders and 16 per cent of all rapes committed across the island between September to December 2004. “It is against this background that the police in the summer of 2004 joined with other partners and stakeholders to introduce the programme,” he stated.
He explained that the police component of the programme consisted of four main areas: safety survey, weapons surveillance, truancy watch and a public education component entitled: ‘Your Police and You’.
He made a call for legislation to be put in place to deal with matters of truancy.
The Montego Bay symposium saw stakeholders inclusive of teachers, principals, students, education officers, school board personnel, parents and the police coming together to discuss findings under the programme and strategies to reduce school violence. A similar meeting was held in Kingston on June 8.
The symposia form part of the training component of the Safe Schools Programme.

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