SCHOOL fights have become a serious issue for most schools in Papua New Guinea, especially in Lae, Morobe Province.
It has become routine for students to chase others of their number from schools on to roads and cause havoc and hindrance to the general public and motorists.
Many people blame these school fights on cult groups in schools and have sought the aid of the Provincial Education Department to solve the problem.
The Education Department and the Provincial Governor have come up with zero tolerance on fights and alcohol consumption in schools. If students are caught breaking these rules, they are expelled immediately.
While this is an immediate solution, in the long term is it good for the student, the student’s family and the community as a whole?
I believe prevention of this sort of behavior is better than trying to come up with short-term fixes. Primarily, the responsibility should be placed back on the parents, not teacher.
Parents are the people children get to know before they know other people. As parents it is our duty to bring up our children. We must be committed to care for them. This means talking to them, instilling in them values that will help make them become better people when they grow up.
We must talk with them every day, before they go to school and when they come back from school. Talk about constructive things and correct them if they had done something wrong.
If parents had that attitude and time for their children, I believe many students would avoid mischief and bad behaviour.
On the other hand, some parents might say we always talk to our children and yet they still get into trouble. Some blame peer pressure.
Sure, these things happen. But as parents our duty is to continually speak to our children, teach them to trust, respect, love, honour, be loyal, honest and courageous in everything they do. Tell them that the decisions they make now will determine their future.
Always remind them of the outcome of any decision they make or actions they take. To think things over, weighing the good and bad before they do anything. In doing so, giving them a reason to say no to school fights or joining cult groups.
Likewise, teachers are the next lot of people who spend more time with students than extended family, friends or wantoks. From being a baby to five or six years of age, children leave their parents to attend school. They spend eight hours every day at school for nearly 11 months a year.
Thus, the next people to groom and prepare these children for a better, brighter future are the teachers. In addition to teaching students the curriculum, teachers should take on the responsibility of providing avenues for other activities as well. For example, leadership and communication skills or youth and fellowship activities so they are kept occupied after normal school hours.
These are skills students can utilise whether they continue their education or drop out of school. Teachers might say we are not paid to do these extra-curricular activities. However, there are non-profit organisations that have such programs that can be used to help students.
For example, the Toastmasters International Youth Program can greatly enhance students’ learning abilities and give them skills that will go a long way in their education.
Teachers should liaise with parents more often to recommend options for the parents to take to improve their children’s learning. If they are kept busy and inspired and motivated, students are likely to refrain from school fights.
In addition, the Provincial Education Department is the next in line in preventing school fights because they select students from primary schools. Current selections are made in a way that students from primary schools in the vicinity of a secondary school are selected to attend that school, resulting in a large number of students from one primary school going to the same secondary school.
The same thing happens to students in Grade 10 who pass their exams and continue at the same secondary school. This seems fine but it might also be bad. Schoolmates from primary schools, familiar with each other, might not be afraid to try bad activities together such as joining cult groups in secondary school.
The Provincial Education department by mixing the selection of students from different primary schools and Grade 10 selections to different secondary schools for Grades 11 and 12 can break this trend. Students going to new schools will take time getting used to each other and to their surroundings and may be scared to approach other students to create sect groups or gangs.
Finally, we are all familiar with the popular saying, “prevention is better than cure”. If we really want to help our children we must prevent school fights at all costs.
Given the areas of consideration I’ve mentioned; the onus is on us parents, teachers and the Provincial Education Department. If we don’t do our part, school fights will continue, students will be expelled creating more problems in our communities; illiteracy, unemployment, drugs, prostitution and the list goes on.
Ultimately, Ministers can assist by upgrading secondary and national high schools in Morobe Province to cater for the mixed selection of Grade 10 students to Grade 11 in the province. On that note, “prevention is not better than cure, it is the best cure”.