I wish to endorse the recommendation of Winston Dookeran to have police officers at our nation’s schools as a response to the disturbing issue of school violence.
Certainly, the police presence in our schools can and will have an impact on this situation, and I would even wish to include soldiers as well, but not in the capacity of law enforcement. It would be extremely counter-productive and a retrograde step if we have fully armed servicemen and women patrolling our school corridors.
However, our officers can in fact have a greater influence on the lives of our school children through their discipline and training. Allow our officers to become part of the school landscape as role models. Give them classroom time with the pupils to share their own experiences and teach the pupils the importance of being socially responsible.
More importantly, give them the capacity to be involved in the school in a general sense—as mentors, coaches, advisers, friends, big brothers and sisters. Yes, they can be the prefects, keeping that eye out for pupils stepping out of line.
Officers selected for this assignment should be specially briefed for their role since it will require them to maintain a balanced mix of protection, service and enforcement in the conduct of their duty at the schools.
Given the nature of the pupil population, it is expected these officers will be challenged, opposed and maybe even attacked. However, this should not necessitate a violent or extremely forceful response but a more measured remedial approach.
Undoubtedly, there will be times when force may become necessary, but preferably as a last resort. In this regard, our officers should be geared with tools of restraint and not firearms.
Our schools are one of the major socialising institutions in our society; in fact, they are second to the home. Our pupils attend not just for their academic development, but for the shaping of their lives as citizens of our nation. We have an important opportunity, in the midst of the madness of today, to influence this process. Our society is imbued with tremendous human resources that can positively redirect the current trends. We have world-class sportsmen and women, scholars, artistes and achievers in many disciplines who can serve to influence our children’s lives.
Indeed, the issue of school violence is but one of the manifestations of the breakdown in the structures of our society. Corruption, greed and instant gratification now top the charts in human endeavour and as a society we are losing grip on our most important asset—our children.
The battle is being fought on the field of influence and we are on the losing side. The influences of criminal activity, get rich quick or die trying, seem to be more powerful and we have to become very desperate in our efforts to reverse the present outcome.
Police in our nation’s schools perhaps may be a step in the right direction, but armed with weapons for re-socialising. Please no guns, Mr Minister.