Playground reprisals

MURDERS, shootings and displays of violent behaviour in Waterhouse, St Andrew, have been influencing students at Balcombe Drive Primary and Junior High School who fight each other over the simplest of matters, often hashing out grouses from parental and community conflicts.

When the Jamaica Observer visited the school on Monday, Acting Principal Yvette Foster told the news team that children often use the school yard to avenge crimes committed against their relatives as they know the perpetrators and harbour resentment against them and, by extension, their relatives. They also express resent if their relatives are in disagreements with families of other children.

“Most of the people know the killers. The children know the people who did bad things to their parents or other relatives, so it remains in them and later on they go and do something about it,” Foster said.

She added: “Violence affects the children significantly. They are hostile. If somebody even just brushes against them, they are ready to fight. It is having its toll on them. We are trying to put some programmes in place so we can reduce some of the hostility. Some of the programmes have been working but it is going to require a change in culture and the thinking of the community itself. All the members of the community have to come together.”

In the meantime, Sheirik Whyte, guidance counsellor at the institution, said every time there is a flare-up of violence in the community everyone connected to the school is affected.

“The thing that we find is that when we have this upsurge of violence it affects the students. It affects how they behave in school and it affects parents and teachers. For the students, we realise aggressive behaviours are very common among them. We have been trying very hard with them because our core values here at Balcombe Drive are respect, support and responsibility. We emphasise greatly on respect. Because of the violent atmosphere in the community, they don’t really know how or when to show respect.

“How the students relate to each other in the classrooms, how they relate to the teachers and even their parents, you can see that aggression is common among them. Remember, they don’t really have many positive role models in the area. What they are seeing mostly are men on the roads with ganja and they hear of the crimes. I have asked students what they want to become when they grow up and one grade six student said a scammer. This was just before school closed for summer. I was so shocked.

“I think the parents are trying the best they can but because of the community their efforts are eroded and it is so hard to move out of the community because the cost of living is so high. For parents, definitely, we have had cases where when they come here, they can’t really relate to each other because one side doesn’t talk to the other side and that is common among parents,” Whyte said.

The guidance counsellor further pointed out that at meetings of the school’s Parent Teacher’s Association, men are usually absent because they aren’t able to walk freely in certain areas that may be at war with other section of the community where they reside.

“When you don’t have the representation of fathers in the homes and in the school system, you find that children are hesitant to obey rules because they know daddy is not really here or present. In our Jamaican culture, the father is normally the disciplinarian. When you don’t have that connection between home and school you are going to find that children will fall in the gaps. Children will do and say things that are outside of how we want them to behave. It is very important that we have men to support us here at the school and that is not the case,” she said.

Whyte is calling for urgent implementation of sustainable programmes to help mold the children for early.

“We have to get them to change that mindset. It is really hard. As a school we have to incorporate some activities that will… change their mindset. We believe in love and peace. We want peace in the community and we just want the people to know that once they are affected we have people who they can talk to. If the parents need help, they can come in and talk to us and we can find other people they can talk to,” she said.

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