Schools should be safe places to learn

Imagine having a friend who goes home to an environment where they are constantly shot at (with actual guns and bullets), sometimes the bullets hit, other times they do not. An environment where they are also exposed to physical violence, because it’s necessary to alter their behavior in a ‘more acceptable fashion’. An environment where they are also teased, ridiculed and degraded for their preferences or things they cannot control. “You are too big, you’re too small, why do you even like that? It must be fun to be that dumb.”

A home where sexual advances are made, even when inappropriate and even when they explicitly said “No.”

If that friend came to you for advice. What would you have said? Would you tell them to stay? I highly doubt it.

Our children deserve better

You would have probably told them to leave immediately or as soon as they can. Because they deserve better. Because no one should ever be subjected to that treatment.

We must take the same approach to children in schools.

No child should be in an environment where they are constantly exposed to breaches to their physical, psychological and sexual wellbeing.

 

Damaging to the future of Jamaica

It negatively affects the development of children while simultaneously affecting the productivity and viability of your incoming workforce. And some might say, “Our work force is doing quite fine”, but imagine how much better it could be doing?

As a result, we need to work on eradicating violence in schools so that we can improve the wholesome development of our students and enhance the development of our states.

Safe to learn is relevant to me because it takes a multi-sectoral approach, including the voices of youth, in its goal to end violence against children in schools. In order to achieve this goal, there needs to be engagement and collaboration at all levels of society, and children need to be at the center of the discussion. Which makes the safe to learn campaign a necessary and welcomed force.

Representing voices of 1m youth

And that is why it is also important that we applaud the various stakeholders that have gathered to take action, because for an issue that often gets discarded as trivial in the grand scheme of things, you have acknowledged its ultimate impact on your society and have committed to being a part of the change. That is exceptional and deserves praise.

A general rule of thumb is that the successful completion of any project requires tools. And, I believe that the End Violence Youth Manifesto is the perfect tool for helping to ameliorate violence in schools.

It represents the voice of over a million youth and outlines the issue as well as provides pragmatic solutions. I was fortunate enough to be a co-creator so I can testify for its relevance, its utilisation of youth perspectives and its ability to solve the problem. In using the Youth Manifesto as a guide, it should also be complemented by consultations with youth in your respective countries to identify the best strategies.

What Jamaican students told me

With that being said, I would like the global community to conduct more purposeful youth consultations, because we are essential to the problem-solving process. Let me give you an example. Prior to contributing to the creation of the youth manifesto, I conducted youth consultations in my country. Though the concerns varied, the most consistent response was that they felt the school does not properly resolve their conflicts and they fear intrusion from outside parties. Keep in mind that, in Jamaica, 1 out of 4 children aged 13-15 are bullied and Jamaica is ranked 4thin the world for homicide rates. 150 children were victims of shootings in 2017.

I saw the fear on their faces and in considering these responses I have developed an initiative that will be able to help mitigate those concerns, once successfully implemented. In this example, through youth dialogue I was guided to an appropriate solution. Let’s keep replicating this process.

Let us also be stalwarts of the movement to end violence in schools. That future can only exist if we labour for its reality.

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