JIS News

Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, has cautioned schools that they cannot treat the possession of offensive weapons by students as minor infractions.
“Crime affects education as it affects the general society. The policy directive that I have given so far is that whatever is illegal in the society, is illegal in the school. So the schools cannot continue to treat the possession of an offensive weapon as a minor infraction,” Mr. Holness said.
He explained that the guideline is that upon discovery or detection of an offensive weapon, it must be reported to the police.
“The police must come and do their jobs. The youngster must be taken from the school, the weapon must be seized and he must be charged,” Mr. Holness affirmed. He added that, whenever a school discovers illegal activity or possession of contraband among students, the offence should be recorded and reported to the police.
“Let the courts decide the course of punishment or rehabilitation that will be administered to that person, but it is not the jurisdiction of the school to sweep it under the carpet, cover it up or ignore it. If we do that, we are not training our youngsters to become law abiding citizens,” Mr. Holness said.
He was speaking at the National Parent-Teacher Association of Jamaica General Conference Friday (July 10) at Jamaica College, Hope Road, Kingston.
Mr. Holness said that, under the proposed Memorandum of Understanding(MOU) with the Ministry of National Security, the police will be required to assists schools in areas of illegal possession of weapons, areas of contraband and with truancy.
“Too often you drive on the roads in school hours and you notice youngsters in uniform, out of school, in the bus park, under trees, being involved in all kinds of illegal and unwholesome activities,” he observed.
He said that those students have to be dealt with. However, he urged the police to be less aggressive and more proactive and interactive in dealing with them.
He also urged principals, and the management staff of the schools, to control the formal and informal groupings of students within schools.
“For a democratic society to survive there must be some form of guidance, regulation and enforcement as to how persons form groups that could, potentially, be inimical to the survival of the democratic state,” he said.
He warned that gangs were crippling the nation’s schools, and many parents feared sending their children to school to become either victims of gang activity, or gang members, themselves.
“The principals must seek to use their authority to ensure, from the outset, that gangs are not formed or survive in the schools. The principals have an inherent authority to order that gangs are not formed, and I encourage them to use that authority, that even the slightest demonstration of a gang, they must swoop down on it with severity,” he declared.
He also urged parents with information about gangs within the schools to report the matter to the principal, or to the Ministry of Education.
The NPTAJ was launched in July 2006, in keeping with the National Task Force on Education Report, which pointed to the need to involve all stakeholders in the education system. It is governed by the Education Act of 1980, and is committed to promoting the welfare of children and youth in the home, school, community and place of worship, and to secure adequate laws for their care and protection.

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