Do we need increased security at the
We know the reputation of our students. The boys are supposedly all knife-carrying, foul mouthed, truants. The girls spend all their time fighting and pulling each other’s hair out. The boys dress like prisoners on day pass, knifing each other for no reason at all. I must be very lucky. Mine are different. They are all well-behaved, bright and intelligent young people, full of promise. Some of them appear to have missed out on a good basic education, but that would be the fault of the system rather than anything inherently wrong with them.
So, the question becomes, will they learn better if we introduce increased security measures? Do we need more police presence in the school yard? Do we need CCTV cameras, electronic gated fences, more screening wands and arches, and new powers to stop and search students without consent? The question is not whether we all need security. The real question is how to achieve it. Will draconian measures actually increase security and comfort, or will they destroy our sense of community and undermine security? What happens when we destroy the trust that is necessary to build community? The risk is that too much security may send the wrong signal. It may suggest that the place is more dangerous than it really is.
Supervision, dialogue, and counseling are not synonymous with security, but they are essential adjuncts to a child’s education. I do not know about the other teachers, but I find it odd that during break periods there are no adults whose job it is to walk around the grounds, corridors and supposedly empty classrooms observing, and where necessary, correcting the behaviour of the children. I do not consider it normal or acceptable that hundreds of children are left to mill around the school yard unsupervised for hours at a time. Yet, that is what actually happens at school, day after day, week after week. When I enquired about the defect, as I saw it, I was assured that a secondary school is different from a primary school. In a secondary school, the children do not have to be monitored continuously. Really?
When fourteen and fifteen year olds engage in unprotected sexual activity in an unused class room, that does not mean they are depraved. It suggests to me that there is inadequate supervision and poor sex education. Would the children have participated if there was the slightest chance that an adult was likely at any moment to enter the room? Probably not. Would they have participated if they knew that if one of them had herpes, gonorrhea, syphilis or HIV the other was likely to get infected? Probably not.
Bad behaviour is a learned activity. Good behaviour is equally learned. When children are taught the facts, they have little difficulty changing their behaviour. The statistics show that carrying a knife increases your chance of getting stabbed. Arresting children who bring weapons into the school is not a long-term solution. Education about the dangers of carrying weapons is. So, is our Ministry of Education even considering a Be Safe programme? Is any thought being given to recruiting willing members of the PTA for training as volunteer assistants in the supervision of large numbers of children?
As Ms Davis points out, pupils do not just learn from what they are taught in the classroom. They also learn from how their school functions as an institution. Fitting out the school with more security guards, wands, and handcuffs may only succeed in teaching them that criminal behaviour is something normal that we just have to live with. Instead, we ought to be teaching them that it is something unacceptable that is to be challenged. Improving security through community dialogue and action to address the root causes of crime won’t just make us safer, it will be a better lesson for the kids to learn.
Does it have to take an aggrieved parent suing the authorities for negligence, and proving that inadequate supervision was one of the immediate causes of injury to her child, to make everyone wake up?
Are we going to make an effort to talk our children out of bad behaviour?