Bahamas Partners with OAS, UNESCO to Host Regional School Violence Workshop

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By ERIC ROSE

NASSAU. Bahamas – Representatives of at least 10 countries are slated to attend the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture, the Organisation of American States (OAS) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO) jointly sponsored “Caribbean Regional Workshop on Reduction in School Violence”, on February 6-8 at SuperClubs Breezes, Cable Beach.

According to Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture Elma Garraway, the principal objective of the event is to exchange and analyse policies and strategies designed to promote a “culture of peace” within the school community as well as to equip educators to deal with related issues systematically and effectively.

“In The Bahamas and in the entire Caribbean school violence is an emerging source of educational and social concern,” Mrs. Garraway said. “In recent times, the use of violence on the part of and against many of our students, particularly in the secondary school level, has surfaced as a source of increasing concern among education professionals, government officials, parents and the general public.

“This workshop represents an attempt to analyse the current situation regarding violence in schools in the Caribbean region, with a view to proposing policies that will lead to its reduction, if not its elimination,” she added.

Minister of Education, Youth, Sports and Culture the Hon. Carl Bethel will officially open workshop, with the keynote address to be delivered by Director of the International Observatory on School Violence at the University of Bordeaux II, France, Professor Eric Debarbieux.  Other presenters will include local and international speakers from Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Topics to be addressed at the workshop include “Conflict Resolution,” “Responsible Citizenship and Democratic Living,” “Effective Parenting” and “Alternative Forms of Discipline.”

Acting Director of Education Lionel Sands said ZNS would broadcast the workshop’s opening ceremony live on February 6, at 9 am.  It is expected, he added, that students, teachers, school administrators, parents and the general public would tune in to the proceedings to share in the dialogue, particularly Minister Bethel’s and Professor Debarbieux’s presentations.

“After the broadcast, the Department of Education is requesting that administrators, teachers and students engage in discussion on the topic, using a set of guidelines that the Department will issue,” Mr. Sands said.  This will assist us in better understanding factors contributing to school violence and enable us to make informed decisions, as we seek to remediate this troubling phenomenon.”

Mr. Sands said that later the same day the Department will host a public forum at the C. R. Walker Senior High School at 8 p.m., in an attempt to further involve the Bahamian public in this important conversation.

“We are happy that the Broadcasting Corporation of The Bahamas has agreed to partner with us in this venture by providing a live transmission of the event,” he added.  “We would also like to encourage the Bahamian public to share in this exercise by expressing their views, offering possible solutions.”

Chair of the Bahamas National Commission for UNESCO the Hon. Theresa Moxey-Ingraham said it is clear that only through concerted collective action stakeholders can begin to find solutions to the school violence problem.

“We are indeed happy to be a part of a regional effort to address this issue, which has surfaced throughout the Caribbean region, and is a matter of deep concern,” she noted. “We look forward to collaborating with representatives from participating countries, through the exchange of experiences and best practices.”

Director of the OAS Bahamas Office Ms. Juliet Mallet Phillip said the Organisation looks forward to a productive session next week, with input from regional and international participants.  She also thanked the Ministry for providing the opportunity to work with them.

“There is a need to examine the root cause, determine strategies for the rejection of violence, as well as for providing alternatives to violent behaviour and fostering innovative and positive forms of youth participation and active citizenship.”

Mrs. Garraway said, “It is expected that a manual of best practices and policies will be produced as a result of the workshop and that participating countries will implement projects geared towards overcoming the growing challenge of violence in schools.”