Education Minister Touts Potential of a National Parenting Initiative

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Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Carl Bethel officially opens the OAS/UNESCO Regional Workshop on School Violence Reduction on Wednesday, February 6, 2008 at SuperClub Breezes, Cable Beach. From left are OAS Representative-Bahamas, Juliet Mallet-Phillip; Minister Bethel; and Professor Eric Debarbieux.  (Photo/Raymond A. Bethel)

By ERIC ROSE

NASSAU, Bahamas – The establishment of a National Parenting Initiative could assist in reducing the incidences of student violence, Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Carl Bethel said this week.

“This will provide young parents – and we have many young parents – with much needed parenting skills,” Minister Bethel said.  “Such an initiative would ultimately create for us better homes to nurture and protect our children and better communities.  It would produce children who are more self-disciplined and with more appropriate behaviour.

“It would create a suitable environment conducive to promoting effective learning and protection for our children.”

Minister Bethel was addressing the official opening of a Joint Caribbean Regional Workshop on Reduction in School Violence.  His Ministry, the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) partnered in the event.

Representatives from close to 10 Caribbean countries and educational and youth issues stakeholders are attending the three-day event.

In addition to a parenting initiative, Minister Bethel said he believes that a Peer Mentoring Programme can also be effective.

“Not only would peer mentoring help struggling students to achieve higher standards; but it would teach them the value of providing mutual support and encouragement,” he said.

Minister Bethel added that he personally benefited from having peer mentoring and study groups throughout his “educational journey.” He emphasised to his senior Ministry officials the need to focus on that benefit in after-school programmes and other social initiatives they are developing to use schools as “social assets.”

He also commended the Bahamas Christian Council for joining with schools to create school and community relations units which result in churches adopting schools, helping them especially in times of need.

Minister Bethel said his Ministry is working to convert all Government senior high schools and selected grade levels at junior and primary schools into after-school study centres throughout The Bahamas, to provide a “safe haven” for students.

Such programmes would also give them additional instruction in their core subjects and to help expose them to other forms of expression such as photography, music and gymnastics, he added.

Minister Bethel said he would welcome the re-establishment of student government throughout the school system.

“Our children desperately need a vehicle through which they will have opportunities to learn the principles and practices of democratic governance in their schools; so that children would have a say as to what is going on around their schools and in their schools,” he said.

“… If they have a say, they would have a sense of ownership and if we could do everything in our power to instill in our students a sense of ownership of their school, I think we would go a long way towards solving many of the problems in our schools.”