Social activist David Comissiong has come up with a proposal to the nation’s teachers unions to tackle school violence.
Comissiong, the Ambassador to CARICOM, told Barbados TODAY that he first proposed a mentorship programme for at-risk school children to the Barbados Union of Teachers (BUT) and the Barbados Secondary Teachers’ Union (BSTU) back in February 2018.
Comissiong, who is also an attorney at law, said: “I am wondering whether one of the most effective responses to the issue of alienated, violent anti-social students in our secondary and primary schools might not be a National Mentorship Programme under which responsible and willing adults who possess records of having raised or mentored well adjusted children are assigned as mentors to all of the public primary and secondary schools.”
The emergence of this proposal comes amid the assault yesterday of a female teacher allegedly by her 14-year-old male student over a cellphone battery the teacher is said to have confiscated. This happened after the boy started causing a noise with the phone in class.
The student was expected to appear in a magistrates’ court today.
President of the BUT Sean Spencer today expressed fresh concerns over the school violence, lamenting that teachers are increasingly fearful of going to work and cited a number of other similar incidents of student on teacher attacks at schools.
While expressing grave concern over this latest event, president of the BSTU, Mary Ann Redman, said she preferred to make a “proper” comment on the incident after first formally reaching out to the Ministry of Education on the matter that involves a BSTU member.
Comissiong is suggesting that the mentors should be placed at the disposal of the guidance counselors in the secondary schools and with the principals of the primary schools to be deployed as necessary.
“Under such a programme, once the guidance counselor or the principal identifies a student as being troubled and at risk, a mentor could be assigned to work with that student and his or her family, and to periodically report back to the guidance counselor/principal,” he said.
The social activist proposed that the programme could be the joint initiative of the BSTU and BUT.
He said they could conceptualize the programme; determine the “qualifications” for being a mentor; put out the call for potential mentors to offer themselves and carry out the initial vetting of those who volunteered.
Comissiong is suggesting that the two teachers’ unions could also assign successful applicants to particular primary and secondary schools where the school authorities such as
the boards of management of secondary and principals of primary would satisfy themselves as to the suitability of the selectees.
“I am not suggesting that the unions be responsible for the day to day running of the progrsamme. The role of the unions would be to propose the programme to the educational authorities and to the agencies that would recruit and vet the would-be mentors, and channel them to the various schools,” he added.
Comissiong said that thereafter, the schools’ authorities would pick up the baton.
“They would satisfy themselves as to the suitability of the persons chosen as mentors by the unions; and would organize and monitor their deployment by guidance counselors and or principals,” the attorney suggested.
He is of the view that in a small and cohesive country like Barbados, this type of direct intervention with at risk students, could go a long way in solving the problem of violence and other forms of disruption in schools.
“It would also help to save many of our youth,” he concluded.