DYS and the BPD are working to keep the peace in schools
The Department of Youth Services (DYS) and the Belize Police Department are working together to keep peace among students across the country. In recent weeks, there has been an increase in fights involving students from both secondary and primary schools. The issue has led to the police and DYS partnering to form a multi-sector task force consisting of personnel from the Youth Counseling Services, Behavior Modification Unit, and the Belize Central Youth Services. This morning, DYS Director, Kevin Cadle, explained that the initiative came to life following the results of the department’s youth needs survey.
Kevin Cadle, Director of Youth Services: “One of the things that we were seeing is that a lot of young people lack social skills especially after the two years of COVID. And so with that one of the things that we were looking at seriously is how can we capture young people and adults in terms of counselling and counselling skills. To do that we partnered with the University of Belize. We also want to partner with Galen University to look at what they can do to support but our youth counselling services is geared towards working with teachers, working with parents and working with young people who are peers to be able to give them soft skills and also primary skills, solutions focused grief therapy to be able to assist their peers, assist other young people and members of the community in order to be able to counsel them and to work with them through the helping process. So that’s one of the key things that you’ll actually be seeing the Department of Youth Services embarking on. Now in terms o f the schools we know that there’s a lot going on in schools but there are so many schools across this country. The department alone cannot do it we need support. We need support from the police, we need support from the teachers, we need support from the Ministry of Education, we need support from all services and that’s why we keep talking about multisectoral approach. We want to be able to continue to provide mentoring training to young people. We have now in our possession a mentoring curriculum that took about three to four years to actually get done and so we will be providing training mentoring as well as primary counselling, conflict management services and so forth especially teaching young people about how to manage conflicts positively so that you could have a win win situation rather than young people clashing all the time. So a lot of this was borne from COVID and I think people were not paying attention when we put the information out there that stated approximately 93% of young people were saying that we need support services, we need help. We cannot talk to our parents, we don’t have anybody to talk to and we ant counselling.”
The Commissioner of Police, Chester Williams, also weighed in on the project and highlighted the police’s role in keeping the nation’s youth on the straight and narrow path.
Chester Williams, Commissioner of Police: “It is a serious concern for us and I have addressed this before in previous interviews where we’re seeing an uptick in the number of fights being perpetrated by students after they leave their school compound and we also have some incidents occurring in schools where students are being disrespectful to teachers. We saw the one from Sadie Vernon High School a couple weeks ago and again while we do have these issues and the school justifiably so are concerned not just for the safety of the other students but also for the safety of teachers. We still have to find a way to ensure that whatever action is taken it is done in the best interest of the child. We don’t believe that the end result must be for the school to tell these children that they need to leave the school and be left without an education. The United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child as well as our local Families and Children Act do speak to the interest of the child being paramount. And so in applying those two very important documents we must work with the schools to see how we can go in, do interventions or mediations not just with students but also with the staff of the school itself because sometimes the teachers may need to know how to identify when a child is acting out as well as being able to apply an approach that is going to be conducive to mitigating the problem at hand and not one that is going exaggerate the issue. And so we are working with them. We have a meeting scheduled with the Ministry of Education where we’ll be looking at this entire issue from a multi departmental approach or multi ministerial approach to see how we can come up with the best solution but certainly ensuring that we have persons from DYS and LIU going to the schools and doing interventions and mediations with the students and children is going to be one of the solutions going forward.”