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Clampdown

Social workers to help maintain discipline in schools

BY RACQUEL PORTER
Observer staff reporter
porterr@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, May 17, 2018

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FIVE years after the Jamaica Teachers' Association called for the placement of social workers in schools, the Ministry of Education has decided to make it a reality.

Minister of state in the Ministry of Education and Youth Floyd Green told the Jamaica Observer yesterday that the ministry is expected to deploy its first cadre of social workers at the beginning of the 2018/19 school year in September.

“…Safety in schools has a lot to do with circumstances of the child at home, and we recognised that guidance counsellors and deans of the disciplines are often burdened [so] what you want are social workers with the training and the expertise to go into the homes and see how they can work with the guardians, with the parents, and with the communities to create better scenarios at home,” Green said. He added that the initiative, which is a partnership with the United States Agency for International Development and the education ministry, will be executed under the Safety and Security in Schools programme.

Green, in addressing the launch, said: “We are going to use them (social workers) definitely in relation to all our children, but especially to those who are acting up. We are seeing it as one of the things we are going to do in relation to our bully prevention programme in schools; because what we recognise is that not only is the victim affected, but the bully is also a victim and is actually a symptom of something deeper that is happening. We have to get social workers to go in the homes to have a more holistic approach,” Green said.

Green also told the Observer that a lot of resources have been pumped into the National Parenting Support Commission, through various partnerships, to set up 'parent places' in communities and early childhood institutions.

“We have already started that. I know we are looking to do 48 across the system, but what I have found that now that we put it out there we get a number of calls for partnerships, so we could scale up that number. In fact, we just signed an agreement with the Government of Japan that will be helping to strengthen our education system and part of those resources will go into parenting. Parenting places are resource centres for parents. What we are saying, especially at the early childhood level, is when the parents come to collect their children, spend a little time with us in the parent place talking about parenting, talking about discipline, how do you stimulate and motivate your child, and how do you affirm your children,” Green said.

Head of the National Parenting Support Commission Kaysia Kerr told the Observer that there are 125 parent places at primary schools islandwide..

The programme, which has the theme 'Let's Talk: Don't Walk', is aimed at reducing the number of children who are running away from their homes.

Founder of Hear the Children's Cry, Betty Ann Blaine, told stakeholders yesterday that despite the number of children going missing annually, she was concerned that the problem was not being addressed adequately.

“Most of the children who go missing are in fact runaways. We do have abductions in smaller numbers but most of them are running away. Since most are runaways we at Hear the Children's Cry decided that we are going to zero in intensely, and focus intensely on this problem of runaways, hence the introduction of the Runaway Prevention Programme,” Blaine said.

She explained that the two-phase programme will provide children who are thinking about running away with the necessary information for them to consider the options available to them and the hazards of absconding.

At the same, Blaine noted that life at home can sometimes be very hard for children.

However, she said she wanted children to understand that whenever they leave homes, their circumstances can get 100 per cent worse.

“We want the children to speak to us. Speak to someone you can trust. Speak to your parents. Speak to us at Hear the Children's Cry. Speak to somebody at one of these many agencies that are here, but don't run away. Some of the stories are bizarre; just horrendous some of the cases we had to deal with,” Blaine said.

According to her, the public education campaign will be driven through social media and the formal education system. In addition, Blaine said they will be training students at all levels of the education system on how to speak with their friends and convey positive advice in an attempt to prevent them from running away.

“What we also know about children who run away is that there is usually a breakdown in communication between the child and parent… so we intend to focus on that aspect on child-parent relationships, including how parents should treat children when they return home,” Blaine explained. That phase of the programme, she said, will facilitate online counselling on Facebook Live for both parents and children.

According to the Ananda Alert Secretariat, 1,674 children were reported missing in 2017, representing a three per cent decline over 2016.

Of that total, 1,476 have returned home.

Green also told the Observer that a lot of resources have been pumped into the National Parenting Support Commission, through various partnerships, to set up 'parent places' in communities and early childhood institutions.

“We have already started that. I know we are looking to do 48 across the system, but what I have found that now that we put it out there we get a number of calls for partnerships, so we could scale up that number. In fact, we just signed an agreement with the Government of Japan that will be helping to strengthen our education system and part of those resources will go into parenting. Parenting places are resource centres for parents. What we are saying, especially at the early childhood level, is when the parents come to collect their children, spend a little time with us in the parent place talking about parenting, talking about discipline, how do you stimulate and motivate your child, and how do you affirm your children,” Green said.

Head of the National Parenting Support Commission Kaysia Kerr told the Observer that there are 125 parent places at primary schools islandwide.

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