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The Safe Schools Task Force will meet over two days in Kingston and St. James, to examine recent findings on school violence and discuss strategies to reduce the scourge.
The meetings, which will be held at the Jamaica Conference Centre, downtown and the Wyndham Rose Hall Hotel on June 8 and 9 respectively, will bring together the partners in the Safe Schools Programme including personnel from the Ministries of Education, Youth and Culture, National Security, and Health, as well as the Jamaica Teachers Association.
Speaking at a recent JIS Think Tank, Lieutenant Colonel Oral Khan, Chairman of the task force, said that the symposium would allow for an exchange of ideas on how best to approach the task of achieving the targets for the reduction of violence in schools. “We hope that by the end of the symposium, we will have a much clearer appreciation of what is meant by ‘safe school’ and will secure the buy-in of all the stakeholders for the continuation of the programme,” he said.
He added that, “we aim, through this symposium, to secure the continued support from all principal stakeholders, and to ensure a state of readiness to advance the programme in the next academic year.”According to Colonel Khan, the programme has a number of facets, one of the most obvious, he noted, was the placement of police officers in the institutions, to act as school resource officers.
Their function, he explained, went further than just maintaining a presence in the schools, as the officers also interacted with the students with the aim of establishing mutually beneficial relationships.
Other elements of the programme, which will come on stream during the next academic year, include a public awareness campaign and the training of school personnel such as teachers and principals, on strategies to reduce violence.
Of importance, the Colonel Khan emphasised, was the support of parents and the communities where the schools were based, noting that community involvement was critical to the success of the programme.
Launched in November 2004 and spearheaded by the Ministries of Education, Youth and Culture, and National Security, the Safe Schools Programme is geared towards reducing the incidence of violence in the nation’s primary and secondary institutions. It has since been implemented in 114 schools across the island.