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September 12, 2014
Vandalism still a problem in secondary schools

A senior teacher within the education system in St Vincent and the Grenadines has voiced concern about what he refers to as “widespread” vandalism in secondary schools.

Philbert John, a teacher at the Central Leeward Secondary School (formerly Barrouallie Secondary) spoke with SEARCHLIGHT, expressing the opinion that there is need for a “national effort {{more}}from all stakeholders” to address the issue. “The problem is very serious and it is widespread,” he explained.

“I have visited quite a number of our secondary schools and unsightly graffiti, broken furniture, broken fixtures, damaged doors… walls and broken windows are common.”

John said that washroom fixtures, such as tanks and toilets are not exempt from being vandalised.

“Someone needs to quantify this in terms of dollars and cents. I guess that it would run into millions over the years,” he added.

Nicole Bonadie-Baker, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, acknowledged that vandalism is still a prevalent issue that the Ministry has to deal with.

“Vandalism in the education sector is real and the manner in which it is perpetrated is cause for concern,” she insisted.

Bonadie-Baker said that although some damage is caused by persons and groups who use the school compound for extra-curricular activities, by far the majority of the damage has been attributed to students of the various schools.

“The walls of some schools are filled with graffiti and other obscene words… and the main culprits are the students who grace the halls of these institutions on a daily basis,” she lamented.

As this is the beginning of the academic year when most educational institutions have undergone repairs and replacement, SEARCHLIGHT could not procure current photographic evidence of the vandalism that many schools experience. In addition to this, some of the schools contacted preferred to refrain from having their vandalism photographed.

Bonadie-Baker admitted that she regularly receives complaints from personnel from the Roads, Buildings and General Services Authority (BRAGSA) that its workmen are repeatedly fixing the same types of vandalism over relatively short periods of time.

She said that because most of the vandalism is committed without witnesses – or persons willing to report who the culprits are the brunt of the cost for repairs falls on the Ministry.

“The same issues… have to be addressed over and over again, which will obviously have the spill-off effect that some requests for maintenance will… be placed on the back burner,” she acknowledged.

“Prioritisation must take place in the face of dwindling resources among increasingly competing issues across ministries.”

Headmaster at the St Vincent Grammar School Curtis King said that his institution also suffers from a vandalism problem, but that he is taking serious steps to curb it.

“We had some problems with the students, especially… when they get to Form 5… they tend to want to leave their mark to indicate that they were here,” he said. “They… do graffiti on certain parts of the school building.”

King said that the school recently benefitted from a fresh coat of paint, and that he would like to keep the graffiti at bay. He also disclosed that the SVGS has a problem with chairs, as they get damaged often.

Whilst acknowledging that the chairs are not as sturdy as they could be, he explained that the damage occurs when students move chairs about during lunch and after school and are not careful about doing so.

King said that with regard to the destruction of chairs, he will be reinforcing a school policy that stipulates that those found guilty of the damage will have to pay for replacements and will be suspended.

“It is expensive to replace the furniture,” he noted. “We seem to have this behaviour where when something does not belong to us, once we ascribe it as belonging to the Government, that it doesn’t matter how we treat it…

“This is a serious societal problem that we have to deal with.”