Victims of bullying in primary schools have now been more visible to the public. I have previously listed several research reports that found that bullying is widespread in the schools of T&T. Even at a prominent denominational boy school in Port-of-Spain authorities had to construct a BRC enclosure to protect new students from bullying by older students.
In the face of this disgraceful epidemic, it is alarming that up to this time the Ministry of Education (MOE) has not taken decisive action, but continues its customary denial, passing off bullying injuries as collateral damage from students at play.
TTUTA’s recently elected leader has demonstrated great skill in shielding his members by alluding to injuries from play, and by blaming parents for being negligent in supervising their children’s viewing of inappropriate TV shows. Now, there is another questionable solution suggested that involves the recruitment of additional custodial staff for lunch-time supervision of students.
I totally reject the latter because school attendance is compulsory for children between six and 12 years old and parents must have reasonable expectations that their children are to be supervised by educational professionals who have been trained in child psychology, classroom management, supervision and other related subjects.
From my perspective, parents cannot be compelled to send their children to schools to be supervised by ancillary staff who lack professional training in education. Indeed, a measure is being unwittingly advocated that can undermine the teaching profession. Would it not be more practical to simply roster some teachers for earlier lunch periods leaving them free to supervise students during lunchtime?
The school curriculum should be amended to introduce strategies that can positively shape the consciences of students so that they feel guilt at the mere contemplation of brining harm to another. There are several effective teaching strategies for achieving this purpose.
The MOE can establish (with the necessary safeguards) a method by which students can report bullying directly to an MOE website for subsequent inquiries by school supervisors. Furthermore, school supervisors should urgently investigate the level of bullying that exists in the schools under their charge to be followed by appropriate action. Principals of schools without bullying should have opportunities to share their methods with others in the education system.
I am appealing to the authorities to act urgently to bring to an end this disgraceful scourge of bullying in our schools. Who can learn in an environment that is threatening, where one is afraid to attend school because of bullies?