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Chang highlights need for social support initiatives to combat school violence

Published:Friday | June 21, 2024 | 12:09 AMChristopher Thomas/Gleaner Writer
Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang.
Minister of National Security Dr Horace Chang.


In light of recent reports of violence in schools across Jamaica, National Security Minister Dr Horace Chang has emphasised the ongoing need to prioritise social intervention strategies alongside police support to curb the impact of crime on youth.

Chang made the point while speaking to The Gleaner on Wednesday evening.

“The police youth clubs fall within the portfolio of the Community Security Services Branch of the police force, and they have become very active and they are re-establishing and also establishing new clubs across the island, but the school violence is a specialised issue,” said Chang.

“The prime minister has given some instructions to do some full assessments, the Ministry of Education has also done some, and we have several joint activities between the Ministry of National Security and the schools dealing with social support in volatile communities and trying to identify the parents who are challenged,” he added.

“It is going well, but we have to look at the security issue specifically, because you have schools which fall in between areas where gangs are active, or where you have young members of gangs going to secondary schools,” Chang added.

School shooting

Concerns about school safety and the impact of crime and violence within school settings have arisen afresh in recent months, with the most recent incident surrounding a male student of the Ocho Rios High School in St Ann reportedly accidentally shooting a female schoolmate on Monday.

The female student was rushed to hospital while the male student was taken into custody following the incident.

Last month, the ministries of education and national security were given a directive to undertake a reassessment of the security risks present at schools, following a rash of violent incidents, including the May 13 stabbing death of Akeilia White, a 20-year-old student of the Catholic College of Mandeville. A 17 year-old classmate of White’s was arrested in connection with that incident.

Meanwhile, speaking specifically to the issue of lottery scamming among students, Chang noted that participants are continually being found among school populaces, particularly with the rise of digital literacy among young people, necessitating the expansion of social intervention strategies in schools backed by police support.

“The emergence of advance [fee] fraud activity, what we call scamming, has lowered the age of individuals participating in criminal activity, essentially because, even though some of them are said to be not so bright, that’s not quite true. It’s just more their interest in the type of education they are getting. They demonstrate their talent as the ‘digital children’, the children of a Digital Age,” said Chang.

“They get caught up in the scamming activity, or they enter a crew that does scamming, and they, therefore, carry their activity into school. They quarrel with each other and it creates the template for violence. In addition to that, because some of them earn significant amounts of money, their parents feel very confident to challenge teachers,” Chang added.

“It is an issue that is multifaceted, but we are working on how we can change the environment and maintain the child’s interest in education. It is a work in progress because it is a fairly new phenomenon in terms of the advance [fee] fraud reaching to that level, but the expansion of the social service to the school supported by the police is a programme that we’re actively pursuing.”