First published in The Tribune on Friday, September 14, 2007 under the byline, Young Man's View.
ALTHOUGH it’s only in the preliminary stages, police statistics for this year show that the Bahamas is speedily becoming an anarchic state where violent crimes have skyrocketed. This week, the country was gripped by frightening reports that a wayward juvenile—already on bail—allegedly jumped a public school’s fence and brutally stabbed another teenager. What’s more, this youngster was scheduled to be in court on Tuesday morning to answer charges for a previous stabbing incident!
Nowadays, vicious crimes are becoming a common practice that is carried out by ruthless, callous young people who have no regard for the value of human life. Years ago, youngsters that could not have mature discussions resorted to settling their rows with their fists, however, these days they perforate each other with bullets and slaughter one another using knives and machetes. Frankly, the spate of violent crimes is shredding our social fabric.
Bahamian society is rapidly headed towards becoming a lawless Wild West, where merciless hooligans show a gratuitous disregard for authority and roam the streets with knives and guns blazing.
Following the stabbing episode at the AF Adderley Junior High School this week, it was revealed that the confrontation between the two teenagers involved may have stemmed form a dispute over a female student. This again is a reflection of the current state of our society where Bahamian men are so caught up in arguments about women that one man feels he must brutally demonstrate his machismo. When will Bahamian men learn that there are many women in the world and that if they aspire to broaden their horizons, they would notice that the dating pool is much deeper?
It is apparent that many students are on the fast track to a life of criminality, perfecting their predatory craft on school campuses.
In response to recent reports of violence on campuses involving parents, teachers and students, some irate teachers expressed their grievances to me.
One teacher at SC McPherson stated: “If society is symptomatic of the problems faced in schools, then schools need the same type of law enforcement activity that they have in the community. Stabbing teenagers soon become stabbing men! Why did they take the police out of the schools? If it isn’t broke, don’t fix it—keep what’s good! The ministry (of education) is not in touch with reality.”
She said: “The children had invested their confidence in the police, often going to officers and telling them of plans for violence before they occurred. The school security guards don’t have any insurance and the parents don’t respect them, so how could they protect us? Besides, some security guards are always sleeping at the gates of these schools, and if you in trouble, they are going the other way anyway, so you’re on your own!”
There is an urgent need for beefed up security in public schools, particularly since students are now stashing their weapons behind walls and in the bathroom ceilings.
The same teacher further stated: “There is a need for officers in place to confiscate weapons. There are limitations on teachers, who unlike officers are not allowed to search persons. School officers are not simply for students, but to protect teachers too.”
“At a recent meeting with the minister at the Joe Farrington road auditorium, teachers questioned ministry officials about their safety. Ministry officials claimed that they had no problems with offering self defense classes to teachers, but was it true or was that just a photo opportunity? They should have gradually phased out the SROs (police) instead of just stopping cold turkey”, she said.
A male teacher added: “Between the ministry’s policies and the parents, teachers are being crippled. These people are not on the school campuses to know what occurs daily. No wonder school violence has escalated!”.
Just yesterday, it was reported that two administrator—Marvin Duncombe (principal) and Virginia Romer (vice principal)—resigned from their posts at the Preston Albury high school in Elecuthera after allegedlt being told to accept a troublesome pupil who is said to have been expelled from a private school in Nassau. Apparently, the youngster in question should have enrolled in the YEAST programme, but other plans were made. Having taught alongside Mr Duncombe, I have no doubt that his resignation was based on principle.
Recently, a step ladder was found perched up against a wall of the SC McPherson school, clearly set for outsiders to sneak on to the campus. There are complaints that a higher wall is needed at the school, along with a proper parking lot for teachers because the present lot is dusty and filthy. However, many teachers feel that these complaints have fallen on deaf ears.
More stringent measures must be implemented to empower teachers. As one teacher said, “part of the educational process is discipline and teachers have no power!” Many supporters of corporal punishment say that having a student stand in a corner does not work for the average Bahamian child.
Today, teachers and many in the general public are calling for corporal punishment to again be placed in the hands of teachers, many quoting the adage that ‘if you spare the rod, you spoil the child.’ It appears that these individuals believe that corporal punishment could play a part in curbing the misconduct of unruly students.
Will lawless youngsters soon begin to stick up churches?
Will teacher and students soon have to purchase body armor to safely attend school? What must happen before the ministry of education has a serious discussion with teachers about the state of violence in the schools? Is there any wonder why so many teachers are resigning?
The Ministry of Education earns an ‘A’ for its role in ensuring that schools were painted and classroom floors were tiled, however they earn an ‘F’ for failing to address discipline from a local standpoint and failing to consult and empower teachers. There is no point in sugarcoating and beautifying schools without confronting the serious issues afflicting the educational system!
If the recent spate of violent crime continues unabatedly, our economy will be “up the creek” and living in the Bahamas will be nightmarish. Crime prevention begins with each community and both the government and community activists should join hands to propose programmes/jobs to rescue these troubled youngsters before they fall through the cracks to face a lifetime in prison.