Keep Our Schools Safe

Image of Methodist Primary School

It would have been difficult for most people on Caribbean shores to take in news of yet another school shooting in the United States of America against the backdrop of a rapidly changing social climate that we in the Caribbean are not immune to. Never mind that there have not yet been any mass school shootings on our small island, the fact that incidents of that nature continue to be a problem in more developed parts of the world should naturally be of concern to us, especially considering the rate at which this continues to happen, and the speed with which various trends and practices filter down from larger countries into smaller countries like our own.

No one wants to imagine that students are unsafe in the very place they’re obligated to go to pursue an education. As such, it is the hope of every parent and guardian that their child/children would return home from school unharmed, just as they left. Some of the recent school shooting incidents in the United StatedSwere reportedly committed by present or past students of various educational institutions. For whatever unjustified reason, these criminals (or terrorists depending on whom you ask) felt the need to kill so many innocent students, and leave families and friends forever in distress. Whether or not an incident of that nature has happened on our shores, we need to ensure that our schools are prepared.

That of course would bring into question the safety of our schools. Nowadays most business places and schools have security guards, but how equip are these security personnel to deal with real threats? In some cases there have been reports of unarmed security guards running to hide in the face of danger, but really and truly, if they are unarmed, who can blame them? We cannot expect security guards to fight gun battles with knifes or their bare fists. This is relevant especially considering that schools are often the target of bandits, mostly by night, but there is no guarantee that a day time robbery, or a mass shooting incident will not occur at our schools.

Now that we are all focused on the ban of corporal punishment and our teachers struggle to deal with that, are we also focused on adding more experienced (and possibly armed but do we really want guns in our schools?) security guards in schools so that students or outsiders don’t have the opportunity to ambush our youth? Will we be implementing more metal detectors, or adding more security guards who will be required to search students upon entry to their designated schools, or are we waiting until the fears of parents and teaches come to life? Even still, with the possibility of the threat coming from within, are we waiting until our teachers are really unable to handle the young people we send off to them to learn, and hopefully become decent citizens?

We must learn to deal with things before, and not when they become a problem. Not only must discussions be had with all stakeholders, but we must implement the decisions made in these discussions, and continue to strategize to stay ahead. Let us not leave our young ones vulnerable waiting for something to happen before we act. Hopefully these and other topics will be discussed in a comprehensive manner at the still ongoing consultations toward the development of a National Safe School Policy being undertaken by islands including Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis and Saint Lucia!

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