KINGSTON, JAMAICA- Rev Dr. Alvin Bailey, Presiding Bishop of the Christian Holiness Church in Jamaica, is urging the Ministry of Education to focus on the alarming rate of homosexuality, occult practices, extortion, crime and violence, and gross intimate relationships in Jamaican schools.
According to Bailey, children are often found in schools with instruments that could be used as weapons, and sometimes harming their peers, while the ministry turns a blind eye to these issues as it focuses on academics and finances.
“Sexual deviance in schools is at an alarming proportion. It’s just a matter of time when somebody meets their demise, or there is aggression, a killing or beating, or somebody hurt a child in school because of these incidents, that they are brought to the attention of the public.“
“There is a heightened involvement in sexual activity in co-ed schools and also single-sex schools, where homosexuality is prevalent, sex on school compound is prevalent.”
Bailey continued, “And extortions are now in schools. And I am talking about primary school and high schools in particular. The problem is the school administrations know about these things and are very abreast of the causes and how uncontrollable it is, but they are often covered up in order to protect the reputation of the school and sometimes protect school staff who are involved, especially if the school is prominent.”
According to Bailey, occult practices have long been practiced in schools as evidenced by the stabbing death of a 16-year-old grade 10 student at William Knibb Memorial High School in Trelawny on March 21 during a dispute with his classmate, allegedly over a stolen ‘guard ring’.
“Not only the more modern ones of guard rings that we have heard – but persons who have been giving their children bath, taking them to Obeah man on the first day of school, at the beginning of school or even in the school term in order to help them in their academic performance if they believe their lives are in danger, or that they need to be protected.”
Adding to that, the school functions as a microcosm of our society.
“Society’s heightened crime and violence, deviance of all sorts is reflected in the behavioral patterns of schools in the forms of misconduct that we have been seeing,” he said.
“I have recognized, and I think the society knows that there is an unexplainable phenomenon with the correlation between patterns of behavior in schools and the communities in which the schools are located, which also reflects the academic performance of these schools. If a school has high behavioural patterns, patterns of deviance and crime and violence in the schools, you normally have low academic performance.”
In relation to crime, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Kingston Kenneth Richards expressed “grave concern” about the recent rise of violence in schools.
Archbishop Richards explained, “However, as the saying goes, ‘Children live what they learn’ and ‘actions speak louder than words.’ Hence, our children are mimicking what they observe taking place. It is difficult for some children who may have a social deficit in right and wrong attitudes to social engagement to resist dealing with conflicts other than being adversarial.”
“They may hear messages of respect for life and respect for others, but the examples around them defeat considerations of such values. There are little examples that can inspire self-restraint,” he continued.
According to the Sunday Observer, several parents admitted that they encourage their children to carry weapons to school for self-defense at home if life-threatening situations arise.
After an investigation, the Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) posted on social media that tools were seized from students at a school following a search. Thirteen scissors and four knives were found, among other items.
A student at Maggotty High in St Elizabeth was stabbed with a pen lodged in his forehead on February 7. Social media was abuzz with a picture of the student with the pen protruding from his forehead.
A confrontation between two boys occurred in St Elizabeth that led to the incident, said Superintendent Dwight Daley, St Elizabeth police commanding officer.
An incident occurred at Petersfield High School in Westmoreland on March 30 that resulted in a female student being hospitalized after being stabbed.
As a result of another altercation on the first day of school, another female student is alleged to have removed a knife from her underwear and stabbed her peer. The students are both in grade 10.
After a second fight broke out, the remaining students were released from lessons at 10:30 am. After that incident was resolved, another one took place outside the school grounds. Both incidents were resolved through student actions.
Archbishop Richards added, “Our children are growing up in a society where they observe the commonplace practice where the hero is the gangster and criminality thrives. There is a prevailing disregard for a moral order that safeguards that which is noble. We have much work at hand to reverse the current reality.”
Pastor Peter Garth of Hope Gospel Assembly says what is happening now as it relates to crime is primarily due to the unique psychosocial issues facing students in light of the novel Coronavirus.
“If you speak with many of the schools, they are seeing a little unusual hype in the students since they have come back. They are seeing some manic as well as some who are withdrawn. I feel that what we see happening now with the students is a little out of the ordinary and certainly, I think that the schools need to swiftly put something in place.”
Pastor Gath emphasized, “I know that they have programmes where they get into conflict resolution and all of that. But the reality is, when a student carries a weapon to school, it is saying a little more than what we think. If you hide a weapon, it means that you have intentions either to protect yourself or to harm somebody. And so, schools have to be a little bit more diligent and have more students into counseling.”
According to Pastor Garth, some guidance counselors have been placing students in counseling.
He said, several parents have contacted him regarding the behavior of their children, and some of them are being treated. They discovered that some of them suffer from depression and high levels of anxiety.
Garth believes that our children have been adversely negatively affected by the pandemic and their reactions are out of the ordinary.
“In fact, I think the Ministry of Health has been saying, that they have been dealing with the matter of trying to get counsellors to deal with our children, especially the adolescents. And so, when parents call, I ask them to go and get this thing checked out. If the child was not like that and is suddenly behaving in an aggressive manner, they need to check it out.”
Deputy President of the United Theological College of the West Indies, Reverend Canon Garth Minott, argues that school violence is not a new phenomenon and that it cannot be said that it is widespread since most schools have settled down and are getting on with the business of teaching and learning.
However, the “few cases” of violence in some schools do indeed warrant concern, he said.
“The use of school resource officers and deans of disciplines, pre-COVID-19 realities, point to the need to address a perennial problem. At its root is anger, which is pervasive in society and manifested in the epidemic of violence.”
“Religion has been used in the past to justify and support violence and the use of the fully-loaded guard ring infused in cultural retention, reinforces the beliefs of many that a higher power is the only means of addressing problems beyond our control,” said Rev Minott.
“This is another opportunity to exorcise the demon of excessive anger in the society and there are tools, exercises, and spiritual practices such as anger management and meditation which can provide support and solutions.”
According to Bishop Bailey, guidance counselors in schools can attest to the situations he highlighted.
“Maybe they should be the ones who are talking loudly because they need help to manage the kind of heightened and escalation in these areas in the schools. Very often, the school supervisor who comes around does not take an interest in these things because it seems as if the Ministry of Education doesn’t have the competence or the will to deal with some of these deviant behaviors that are just not new,” Bailey argued.
Identifying deviant behavior in schools requires a greater level of supervision and investigation, he added.
“There are some that have not yet come to light. The amount of self-acclaimed homosexual children that are in high schools are unbelievable. The level of extortion and crime on school compounds is unbelievable.”