By Leandra Rolle
NATIONAL Security Minister Marvin Dames urged Bahamian students on Friday to "say no to violence” after a recent survey revealed that 17 percent of the students surveyed say they were in a fight at school within the last 30 days.
The survey, facilitated by the Citizens Security and Justice programme in partnership with the Ministry of Education, also found that 63 percent of young people felt there is justification for someone to hit a child or physically hurt a child who misbehaved.
The findings were made known at an inter-school rally at Marathon Mall, where officials spoke on the importance of developing healthy relationships to help reduce crime in the country.
“So in 2019, with the Citizens Security and Justice programme, which falls under the Ministry of National Security, we did a survey in eight (public) high schools in New Providence and the survey was done in grades ten through twelve, so students between the ages 13 to 18," said Arvis Mortimer, monitoring and evaluation specialist at the CSJP.
“And we had over 1500 young people like yourselves that’s answered this survey questionnaire..and what we found (from the preliminary data) was that 17 percent which was about 260 of the respondents said that they were in a physical fight on the school’s grounds within the last 30 days.”
“We also found that 63 percent of the young people felt… that there could be some justification if someone hit a child or physically hurt a child who misbehaved.”
“And then we saw about 39 percent of these respondents who believed that there could be some justification for a man hitting his wife, girlfriend or partner if she made him upset.”
“And for us, this was kind of, I wouldn’t say surprising because it mirrors cultural trends, but it definitely was the catalyst to work with the Ministry of Education and partner with them.”
For his part, Mr Dames told students that as future leaders of the country they must be willing to be agents of change.
“As we look throughout our communities, as we look within our schools, as we look within public spaces, we’re seeing too many of our young children engaging in very unhealthy lifestyles and unhealthy relationships, too many fights,” he stressed.
“…This is not a good reflection of who we ought to be as future leaders of this great nation of ours.”
“We’re depending on you to lead us at some point, when we’re all old and decrepit and so we have to prepare you and we have an obligation to do that, but you have to be willing participants and that is so important.”
“...So, let’s say no to violence. Let’s say no to bullying. Let’s say, yes, to healthy relationships.”
Noting that he looks forward to the day where “bullying” will no longer exist in the country, the minister encouraged students not to be influenced by stereotypes that promote violence.
“There is a notion that some of us believe that it makes us respected and that people look up to us because we can beat someone up, but to the contrary, it actually devalues who you are as an individual and as a human being, when you bully another student.”
“So our approach as a government, it’s all about multi-agency and multi-sectoral and multi-disciplinary and hollistic approach to addressing the issues impacting our nation.”
Mrs Mortimer noted that in partnership with the Ministry of Education, CSJC was able to produce the healthy relationships curriculum aid, which seeks to reduce crime and violence in the country by providing tools to help foster stronger relationships.
“We worked with the senior education officer of health and family life education department in the ministry of education and we provided the evidence-based strategies and tactics, included in the curriculum aid that seeks to support non-violent conflict resolution and non-violent behaviours.”
“We’re very excited about the curriculum aid that we have developed. It was implemented in the 2019 school year in September (in) all eight of the senior high schools where the survey was distributed or conducted and so far, the response has been pretty good.”
"We've had over 1300 young people who have participated in the classes where the curriculum aid was introduced and we're excited to go back into the schools and follow up with the students and the teachers and continue advancing the cause of reducing crime and violence in our country."