Prime Minister, Dr. the Right Honourable Keith Mitchell, along with senior education officials in Grenada, have expressed grave concern about the sexual abuse of children.
The issue of sexual exploitation of minors was one of the main talking points at a meeting on Wednesday with senior education officials, as the Prime Minister continued his series of ministry engagements.
Dr. Mitchell lamented the growing prevalence of the problem and suggested that a meeting be convened among relevant persons to determine the way forward.
The Prime Minister said, “There is a lot of abuse in the education system; a lot of children are being used by vicious characters who have no regard for the children that they hurt. When someone is damaged at a young age, it is difficult for them to get back on track, therefore we must seriously address this issue.”
The bureaucracy of the public service was flagged as an issue and Dr. Mitchell said the need for redress is urgent. “There needs to be a meeting of the minds – the Ministry of Education, the Department of Public Administration and the Public Service Commission. I am also prepared to be present. It is not fair that persons who are entrusted with the care of children, would harm them and get away with it. I do not think anyone with a conscience would want to know that they are part of a system that is not adequately protecting our children from abuse and exploitation,” he stated.
The importance of psychological support for students was also a key talking point, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was recognised that with changes to the learning environment, due to the protocols, students are not benefitting from valuable face to face interaction with their teachers and friends.
Dr. Mitchell said, “Our children are seriously affected by what is taking place in the world today, with the loss of interpersonal relations. Teachers have to become psychologists when they themselves need psychological support. The critical question is how can we confront this issue and reduce the many social problems that can develop as a result?”
Mention was made of the need to increase the number of counsellors in the education system and the Prime Minister gave support to this saying it can be done without bloating the public service. He reiterated the need for a more service-oriented strategy which allows for persons to be contracted to provide a service for which they are generously rewarded, rather than increasing the number of permanent positions within the public service.
Dr. Mitchell also recommended the consideration of counselling and psychology as an area of support for future Government scholarships.
Other issues discussed at Wednesday’s meeting included school infrastructure and ensuring an appropriate maintenance plan is put in place; staffing challenges and the newly developed Substitute Teacher Policy which also addresses the general recruitment of teachers and ensuring quality teachers in the classroom.
On the subject of COVID-19 vaccination, the Prime Minister said leaders must lead by example, therefore, it is important that education officials demonstrate leadership in that regard, setting an example for teachers and others involved in the education system.
He said, “The first thing we have to do as leaders is to vaccinate, to send the right message to those who are influenced by our actions. We have to demonstrate that we understand the significance of this and are willing to lead by example. The fact is, we would not get back to where we were, or where we want to be, without vaccination. Therefore, we must vaccinate.”