I write in response to the many persons attempting to present a solution to the rise in criminal activities within our schools. These criminal activities include the carrying and use of offensive weapons both on and off school compounds, physical retaliatory attacks on teachers and school administrators and the malicious destruction of property. School safety resource officers (SROs) were introduced into several schools especially where violent confrontations resulted in serious injury or death. While many persons recommend the increased use of SROs, the Jamaica Teachers Association (JTA) suggests parent training. While the former seeks to deal with the symptoms, the latter aims at attacking the cause. As one can well imagine, there are several other approaches that may also produce positive results. The organization Peace And Love in Schools (PALS), has an ongoing programme with many schools but I would like to recommend greater attention to conflict resolution and anger management.
Conflict management with its emphasis on problem identification, attention on the problem rather than the person, objective listening, respect for others and the acceptance of responsibility for ones actions, provides a useful tool for resolving many of the conflicts that arise in schools. Until our children learn appropriate, socially acceptable ways to manage their emotions, there will be a continuous increase in the conditions being manifested in our schools.
Anger management which gives great attention to self-control, teaches one to maintain composure, no matter no matter how angry he gets; to think of ways to solve the problem he faces; to release pent-up emotions in safe and effective ways and to inform others of ones needs, provides key strategies for the management of angry feelings.
For change to occur, each major sector needs to play its part. The home (the primary agent of socialization), the school, the church and the wider society must work together to cultivate and demonstrate their commitment to the process. While parent training is crucial, teachers must respect students if they expect respect. The Jamaica Teachers Association Code of Ethics speaks to the quality of respect that should be demonstrated within schools. Society must support the lessons being taught at home, at church and within the schools. This means that Deejays and other popular role models must be made aware of the negative impact of derogatory music on children. Clean lyrics can be set to the same beat that so easily captivates their attention. In fact, adults within the society must demonstrate better conflict and anger management skills. The ministry of Education must act with alacrity to support recommendations submitted by school administrators as they seek to develop peaceful environments conducive to learning. We all must desist from blaming each other and stand firmly behind the processes we implement to produce change.