What about the children?


By Indi Ram
Over the past weeks, we have seen an increasingly alarming trend in Guyana. What started out as a violent threat on social media directed at The School of The Nations, quickly escalated into the shooting and wounding of Principal of the said school Dr O’Toole, forcing the school to close for one week. Subsequently, came shooting threats at Queen’s College, Bishops’ High and Mae’s. There were also two bomb threats to The University of Guyana in two days, leading to suspended classes for both days, and another bomb threat at the Office of the Ombudsman.
Against this background, The Caribbean Voice (TCV) is somewhat concerned that the Guyana Police Force sees “no significant threat from warnings to various educational institutions”. What about the children? Surely the police are not simply dismissing the mental health fallout?
For one, a sense of security is lost. School is the second home for our children and they no longer feel safe. The trauma is real and widespread because students are not psychologically prepared. They are fearful. They are confused. Some are discouraged and have become demotivated. Many have had sleepless nights and those that sleep have nightmares. Parents and students are of the view that not enough has been done since then to assist them to return to a sense of normalcy. TCV is aware of all of this because we have been talking to parents and students.
A holistic approach is required to ensure that students not only heal but also that schools are prepared to proactively deal with issues of this nature. The Caribbean Voice is happy that the Mobile Mental Health Unit of the Education Ministry was deployed but was the services offered to all the schools affected? Will there be follow-ups to ensure that individual students who remain traumatic are offered counselling therapy? Going forward, will entire student bodies be provided with coping skills and mechanisms? Will schools nationwide be trained to respond to such threats through regular drills that focus on strategies like soft and hard lockdowns and evacuation procedures? Will Police be armed with the capacity for rapid response nationwide?
For years TCV has been calling for counsellors in schools to assist students to better cope with whatever challenges they face on a daily basis in and out of school. Such placement has become even more urgent now. Also, The Caribbean Voice again offers our youth and student workshop to the Education Ministry. At previous meetings with Ministry officials, promises were made to integrate our workshop into the Health and Family Life Curriculum. We are still awaiting fulfilment of this promise.
Finally, the Education Ministry should mandate all schools to set up threat response teams comprising parents, staff and other related personnel that should be trained to quickly act in such eventualities. At least one school affected by the recent threats has already done so. The global village has now encompassed Guyana in its unsavoury fold and our nation must not find itself wanting in its responsibility to protect our children every which way.

About caribvoice

Free lance journalist, educator and community activist. Guyana born New York based.
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