Today is a tragic day in Barbados.
For, in effect, not one but two young lives have been lost.
When news initially broke that two teenagers had been involved in a stabbing incident at the Frederick Smith Secondary School, no one was prepared for what followed soon after.
The nation was plunged into mourning upon learning that a 16-year-old boy was stabbed to death by a 15-year-old fellow student.
It is tragic enough that this horrific death should add to the already grim statistic of 42 homicides for the year. What is particularly heartbreaking and even more ominous is that this sweeping wave of violence appears to have finally found its way into our schools, more than 30 years after the last such incident.
Few if any parents, whose child leaves them for school on any given morning, contemplate that anything so shattering could befall them.
Schools in most instances are deemed safe havens, as places where discipline and order are kept. Much has been invested to make schools child-friendly, reinforcing positive behaviours and the power of choice.
But as one family is left to grieve the death of their beloved son, another family is similarly heartbroken, uncertain of what the future holds for their child, now accused of the most serious crime there is.
This latest murder leaves several unanswered questions. Did these students carry to school the weapon used or was it stashed on the premises? What could have occurred to merit such a violent response? Why are our young people so angry?
This tragedy will no doubt reignite the call for greater security measures to be put in place at the 26 public secondary schools across the island.
But we submit that this is not the solution to a growing problem.
This problem has developed in our homes and communities.
In years gone by, communities were closely knit and it literally took a village to raise our children.
Somehow along the way this community-minded spirit, this notion of being our brother’s and sister’s keeper, has been lost.
Almost on a daily basis, our young people are appearing before the courts charged with serious crimes, including murder.
This is reflected in the prison population. HM Prison Dodds is flooded with young people between the ages of 17 and 30.
We consider this to be our young people’s cry for help.
Minister of Education Santia Bradshaw summed it up with searing philosophical truth when she spoke to the media shortly after meeting with the school’s management team and teachers following the incident.
She said: “I believe the reflection is on society, not just on parents who are perhaps sometimes not as vigilant in these times, in terms of checking to see what children are taking to school, but also this is a reflection of society at large.
“A school is a small environment, but it is also a reflection of what is happening in society.
“We can never see these things coming, but the reality is these are problems that are confronting this institution. It is certainly confronting other institutions.
“And this is really a call to the wider society to take stock of what is happening and to be able to get on board to be able to assist not just families but certainly to be able to support the institutions as well.”
Now the question still remains to be answered: How will schools respond?
There is no magic wand that can be waved to end this apparent uptick in violence?
Metal detectors are not a plausible fix, and it is almost impossible to individually search the bags of over 800 students on a daily basis multiplied by 26 high schools alone.
But if it has taken this horrendous day of days to bring us to the realisation that we have reached a crisis of violence, in thought, word and deeds, so be it. Now is the opportunity for all of us to join together to fix this, or be condemned to a permanent state of failure.
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