THE Prime Minister has made a clarion call to the country's parents to take their roles and responsibilities to properly nurture and train their children away from delinquency, violence and anti-social behaviour.
Speaking at the PNM public meeting on Thursday night at the Barataria Community Centre, Dr Rowley said, "I want to appeal to parents in this land that is becoming faster and faster a wider killing field, I want to let you know parents, you have the fundamental responsibility and when you see a child behaving in a particular way, the question must be asked, where are or where is a parent?
"There are too many parents in this country who are not paying attention to their children sufficiently. Leaving it up to the teachers to work miracle. Leaving them to the Government and the police."
Saying old talk is cheap, Rowley asked what can the police do but to act after a crime is committed, "when you (the parent) turned a blind eye to it (in the first place)."
He said things have gotten so bad that parents are joining in the violence in support of their delinquent child, even going into schools to fight with another parent's child.
Rowley said Government cannot and will not be held responsible for this.
"I am saying the Government is not taking that responsibility, the government is saying to you, the first responsibility as a father or a mother, an uncle, an aunt, a brother, a sister, a neigbour, the first responsibility is yours!"
Earlier in the meeting, Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said parents have a critical role to play in shaping the minds of children.
The minister declared, “like charity, discipline also begins at home!”
She added that a teacher cannot – no matter how hard they try – fix what a parent allowed to become broken over the course of many years.
She raised the importance of the input of parents when speaking on the issue of violence and indiscipline by students inside and outside of schools.
The St Ann’s East MP said while the public remains enraptured with viral videos and other social media posts, showing fights and indiscipline in and outside of schools, the fact is, out of a national school population of over 200,000, a mere handful of students are actually engaging in deviant behaviour.
She however stressed that she was not seeking to trivialize the issue of school violence and indiscipline, when saying it was a handful of students behaving in a deviant manner.
The minister said the covid19 pandemic lockdown, which saw schools shuttered for two years, played a major role in the violence and indiscipline being witnessed in the education system.
“Covid exacerbated the situation because students lost the discipline of being in a classroom (and) some of them haven’t regained it as yet.
“Students have lost the ability to be tolerant of each other, they were home for two years eh. Cyber-bullying started to impact in-school life in that fights were taking place in schools among students over cyber-bullying.”
She spoke of students traumatised by losing loved ones to the virus. Others had to work to support parents who lost their jobs because of the lockdown. And like these students, some parents also lost their parenting discipline during the lockdown. “Students came back out to schools unsettled,” Gadsby-Dolly said.
So what is the ministry doing about the violence and indiscipline, she asked.
She said the first port of call remains the Student Support Services which comprises a staff of over 800 including guidance counsellors, student aides, clinical psychologists, behavioural specialists etc.
School officials identity student delinquency in the categories of minor, major and severe and apply the necessary support and intervention to deal with the student and their behaviour.
Minor infractions include lateness and dress code infractions and is dealt with in-school.
Major infractions include disrespect, fighting and bullying. Interventions include use of the Student Support Services and calling in the parents.
Severe infractions includes arson, trying to burn down the school, drug use and possession, fighting with weapons etc. These types of infractions may see police involvement.
Gadsby-Dolly said the consequences are not only punitive but also restorative.
She spoke of retraining for teachers taking into consideration advances in technology; training in conflict-resolution for both teachers and school principals.
But ultimately, Gadsby-Dolly said, teachers and the ministry cannot be expected to be the only ones to train and educate young people to be tomorrow’s leaders.
“Like charity, discipline begins at home. If your child has no fear of how their parent will react to their behaviour, trust me, they will have no care about how a teacher reacts. You as the parent, we have to hold the standard for our children.
“A teacher cannot fix what a parent allowed to become broken over many years. If we don’t hold the mantle and take back our children, we are going to lose them,” Gadsby-Dolly said.
She spoke of 28 per cent of families being single-parent and the majority are women. She said that 60 per cent of boys in YTC came from single parent homes.
"Single moms, we have to do better, we have to work harder, the future of our country depends on us." Gadsby-Dolly also called on fathers to be there and to be willing to stand up and be counted and fulfil their roles as parents.