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Minister of National Security, Col. Trevor MacMillan, has said that even though violence has become a major problem within schools, it was a minority of students who are committing the offences.
“During a meeting with principals from across the island, one said that there were six boys who gave all the trouble in the school. [Another principal] had a larger school, over 1500, and about 20 boys who gave problems,” he said.
The Minister was speaking at a Peace Day press conference, at the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), Kingston, on February 24. Peace Day will be observed on Tuesday, March 3.
Senator MacMillan said that there is cause for concern that 80 per cent of the crimes committed in Jamaica were being committed by young men, between 18 and 25 years old who drop out of school and join gangs.
He noted that parents play an integral role in the development of problem solving and dispute resolution skills in children, pointing out that they can either reinforce or erode the values being taught in the schools.
“The communities, administrators, parents, teachers and students must come together and make schools safe. Otherwise, prevention and punishment will not be effective,” Senator MacMillan said.
He called for the continued support of the Peace and Love in Society (PALS) programme which, described as “a significant social intervention initiative.”
He said that the support of law-abiding Jamaican, putting hands and hearts into a programme to bring back peace and love to the society, is critical.
The Minister also lauded the organiser of the PALS programme for its expansion to include the entire society, and not be limited to schools.
“The tragic reality is that, as we wrestle to keep violence out of schools and peace and harmony in our educational institutions, our students are returning each day to a society where they are confronted with anti-social tendencies,” he said.
He revealed that, in meetings with schools principals, he had learnt that some students were the children of gang members, and what they displayed in schools were no different from what their parents were carrying on outside.
“Our social fabric is being ripped apart before our eyes, even as family structures collapse leaving young people more vulnerable than ever,” he said.
He remarked that violence prevention is a collective effort, which needs the collaboration of everyone.
Peace and Love in Schools(PALS), which was launched in 1994, offers conflict resolution programmes for schools and the wider society, with the goal of creating a gentler society, by focusing on children.
The programme eventually changed the meaning of its acronyms, to Peace and Love in Society, as it expanded its focus to the wider community.