JIS News

The Safe Schools Programme, the government initiative designed to quell school violence by placing law enforcement officers at troubled institutions, was officially launched yesterday (Nov.10).
The programme, which has been in place since the start of the new school year in September, involves officers from the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) acting as School Resource Officers (SRO), where they mentor students and mediate in disputes. They also work with the school administration to identify and monitor areas on school compounds that pose potential dangers to students.
In endorsing the programme at the launch on the St. George’s College campus downtown Kingston, National Security Minister Dr. Peter Phillips said: “our schools have become battlegrounds manifesting violence and if our schools are in danger then our future as a country is in trouble”.
Stating that young people were the victims and perpetrators of violence, he cited statistics, which showed that children of school age were responsible for 14 per cent of murders and 16 per cent of all rapes, while 80 per cent of all arrests were young persons under 30 years-old. He noted further, that young men made up 75 per cent of inmates in the penal system.
Meanwhile, Dr. Elizabeth Ward, Director of Disease Prevention and Control in the Ministry of Health, told the gathering that more than four per cent of all visits to hospitals were related to school children coming in to receive care for serious injuries. She said it was costing the Ministry over $20 million to care for injuries to schoolchildren, who are admitted to hospitals.
The Safe Schools Programme is a multi sectorial initiative involving government ministries and agencies and non-government organisations.
Its principal aim is to foster safe schools where the physical, psychological and emotional environments are conducive to positive interaction and “where the teaching and learning experience contribute substantially to socially adjusted students”, explained Lieutenant Colonel Oral Khan, chairman of the working committee for the Safe Schools Programme.
Some 80 institutions across the island have been identified to take part in the programme and they have been categorised into three groups based on intensity of problem and treatment to be applied. Each institution will be required to plan and implement school specific safety measures to achieve violence prevention and reduction targets.
Funding for the programme will come from allocations to the Ministry of National Security under the European Commission-funded Social and Economic Reform Programme and the Citizens Security and Justice Programme.
In her remarks at the launch, Education, Youth and Culture Minister, Maxine Henry Wilson, called for more focus to be placed on those students who were achieving and bringing peace to schools.
She applauded initiatives such as the Peace and Love in Schools Programme (PALS) and Change From Within for their efforts towards curbing violence in schools and encouraged citizens at all levels to become a part of the process. “It is going to be that collaborative effort between all the institutions to make that difference in the lives of our children,” the Education Minister stated.
Popular reggae artist Abijah, who has been included in the programme as the Safe Schools Ambassador, along with a young singer from Ardenne High School, echoed the core sentiments of the programme in their performances at the launch, that is, peace and love.

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