EDITORIAL - We must protect our children
As a society, over the past few years we have had to look at the issue of violence in schools, in light of several incidents of student-on-student violence and student-on-teacher violence. These incidents have been increasing in number over the years and because of the advent of social media, are in our face more than ever. As a result they have been capturing the attention of the media, who then are drawing them even more to the attention of the public.
The problem of violence is schools is in no way unique to Barbados, we have over the years heard of many incidents that have taken place in schools across the region and certainly in North America, where students have entered their school compounds armed with firearms, intent on doing harm to others. While we have not seen such in Barbados, and hope never to, we have had a few where students armed with weapons of some kind have inflicted bodily harm on other students. These events no doubt enticed the media, who did not hesitate to jump on the stories, and what that coverage also did was bring to fore the need to address the problem. And it is important to note that this is not something that started within the last few years or even the last decade, but because of social media and the proliferation of cellphones with camera capabilities and instantaneous connectivity, it is now literally in our face.
The last episodes of violence in our schools caused persons again to call for such things as closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and metal detectors to be installed within schools across the country, so as to ensure the safety of all students, teachers and ancillary staff. We firmly believe that both are worthwhile investments for our Government to make to ensure that our children are not running afoul of the law, and while there have been arguments about where those cameras should be placed; we feel that the only place where they should be prohibited is in the bathrooms. The gates, perimeter fences, classrooms, labs and corridors should come under the watchful eye of the camera. If “big brother” is watching, there would always be concrete evidence in hand to say what did and did not occur.
If the Ministry were to decide to install CCTV cameras in schools it would undoubtedly spark a massive debate in this country, as has been the case in other countries across the world, the United States and United Kingdom included. For them, the primary argument has been that it is an invasion of privacy. However, we feel strongly that once the cameras are not installed in bathrooms or toilets, it cannot be an invasion of privacy as the school is a public place. Another argument against CCTV in schools is the costs associated with installing and maintaining the systems, and in an already cash-strapped economy this is an argument we cannot ignore. But we feel that there is no price tag too large to ensure the safety of our children. Certainly Government should be able to find a willing private sector partner or philanthropist to help finance the cost of such devices.
It is believed and we agree that CCTV in schools can help to deter misbehaviour, reduce violence and bullying and stop intruders from coming on to the school compounds. In general, such a system can make persons feel safer and make the school environment more productive for teaching, learning and development. However, before moving in such a direction the matter would have to be fully ventilated with the relevant stakeholders – allowing the teachers, students and their parents to have their say. This would allow the
authorities to make an informed decision as to the way forward.