Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly says school violence is on the decline because police officers are now patrolling inside and outside the compounds of high-risk schools.
Speaking to reporters at a tour of schools in the St Patrick region on Tuesday, Gadsby-Dolly said an inter-ministerial team, set up to address school violence, has completed its investigations. The team has submitted its findings and recommendations, which will be shared with stakeholders over the next two weeks, she noted.
By the next fortnight, the minister said all stakeholders will meet to discuss the report, following which a final report will be sent to Cabinet for perusal. She said the committee was not in favour of suspended students being sent home.
“A lot of it includes positive behaviour management and encouragement, like bringing people into our schools to talk to children and also dealing with school suspensions. This has to be discussed with TTUTA. We want to know how the children are being supervised and we certainly have to move away from just sending them home,” Gadsby-Dolly said.
The minister noted that background checks into delinquent and violent students often show they were not getting the type of attention and support at home.
She also expressed gratitude for the additional $300 million allocated to her ministry in the Mid-Year Budget, noting some of this will go towards clearing arrears for janitorial, maintenance and utility bills. She said school grants will also be paid so that school supplies can be purchased.
“At this time, janitorial and security are critical because they are a big part of the COVID-19 management structure. We have gotten grants for schools. It is very important to assist schools so they can get the supplies they need to operate properly, so we are very happy with this money allocated to the Ministry of Education,” she said.
Asked about outstanding payments owed to the school maxi taxi operators who transport students to and from school, Gadsby-Dolly said meetings have been taking place over the past two weeks.
“We continue to work with PTSC. There were two meetings last week with the maxi taxi association, PTSC and the ministry and we ironed out some issues related to delays in payment. We have to ensure that maxi taxi drivers do not have to wait too long for payment. The association has been very vocal about that,” she added.
Asked about the completion of schools, Gadsby-Dolly said Cabinet had approved $400 million which will be used to complete seven schools.
She said previously, $400 million was used to complete 13 schools.
The minister could not name the seven schools that are expected to be completed, saying she will provide this at a later time.
She added, “All schools where contracts were signed and there was no funding arranged for the school, it will take some time to get through. A building programme like that should have been funded but it was not so we will have to do it bit by bit as we can afford.”
The minister said her tour of schools takes place fortnightly and she expects to visit every school and complete her rounds of tours by next year.