“We have to be proactive” – GTU worried that violence in schools can escalate

GTU President Mark Lyte

By: Shane Marks

Owing to the recent gun discovery and other instances of violence in several education facilities, President of the Guyana Teachers Union (GTU), Mark Lyte has expressed concern about the trajectory of violence reported in schools across the country.

He noted that if the matter is not addressed at the earliest, the problem could evolve into something more severe.

“Seemingly, that’s something we are concerned about. We have seen a lot of things happening in the international community coming to the Guyanese shore or within the Guyanese space and so, the world, as a result of globalisation…what happens elsewhere is known here and so that’s a major concern, especially with the issue of guns. Our students are having knives and jooker and whatever, but we’ve been reading about a lot of guns in the community so it’s not going to be strange if a child shows up with a gun, an illegal gun at the school,” the GTU President stated.

The GTU Head noted that the school system must be prepared for the eventuality of similar acts of violence as seen in the United States of America.

“We have to be prepared for those eventualities because what happens elsewhere can happen here without even recognising that it’s here,” Lyte said.

He further stated that systems need to be put in place where teachers can be trained in the event of another gun scare that may present itself as a more serious situation.

“I believe that we have to begin to put systems in place whereby teachers can be trained and school systems are so designed, the school infrastructure is designed to provide a safe place for teachers is the event or something of that nature should happen.”

Lyte believes that there should be no postponement of action to be taken. He said that “Guyana has to be proactive and put systems in place to protect our teachers.”

“I don’t believe that we should wait until…we have to be proactive and understand that this is what is happening in the world, in North America, and elsewhere,” he stated.

It was recently reported that a student of Lodge Secondary School was nabbed with an air gun after a random search by teachers.

Additionally, classes were forcefully halted at the New Campbellville Secondary School after several students from Form Three were engaged in a violent attack on each other.

Lyte said that teachers are scared to enter the school environment as children are taking weapons to school, thus creating both unhealthy learning and work environments for teachers.

“The weapons that they’re using, it’s a call for concern and in many instances, our teachers are really feeling scared going into the school environment with this kind of behaviour coming from the children.”

The GTU President called on the Ministry of Education to stand firm against children who display violent behaviour in schools.

“So, we would like to see the Ministry of Education take a firm stand against children who display violent behaviour, and there are places where those children can be placed, as well as to provide counselling and other support to those children,” Lyte urged.

Lyte added that there should be an increase in Police presence around schools in the event that they should be needed.

“You can have Police presence through small outpost so that in the event anything happens there is some sort of reinforcement coming from the Guyana Police Force. And then that can be complemented by regular patrols around the school, generally around all schools,” he said.

Education Minister Priya Manickchand had stated that while students need to be educated, any unruly behaviour which affects teachers and other students will not be accepted.

“I want students particularly to understand something: while you have a right to education, other people have a right to enjoy their space without fear, and that right will trump any right you believe you have to be disruptive; and I want to say that very clearly,” she had said last week.

She was making reference to the incident at the Lodge Secondary School, where teachers downed tools in protest against intimidation and threats by students suspected to belong to gangs.

“We cannot have one or two or ten children hold any school to ransom, and it is not going to happen,” she added.

She said teachers, students, parents, and community elders, along with the Ministries of Health, Home Affairs, Human Services and Social Security, and Local Government and Regional Development, will all be engaged to ensure the situation is changed.