Education Ministry and Child Protection Authority talk safety in schools

Monday, March 24, 2014 7:38 PM- St. George's, Grenada
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ST. GEORGE’S, GRENADA, March 24, 2014 – GIS:
In the wake of an unfortunate report of child abuse at one of our nation’s schools, officials at the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development and the Child Protection Authority took time out to publicly address the issue and ensure the general public of the importance of child safety in schools.

Chief Education Officer in the Ministry of Education, Mrs. Andrea Phillip, and Director of the Child Protection Authority, Mr. Kallon Simon, are two representatives from a collaborative safety and prevention effort, which includes the Royal Grenada Police Force and the Ministry of Social Development.

“I want to make it abundantly clear that the greatest priority of the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development is the safety of our children. If our children are not safe, and schools are not secure, then learning cannot take place,” Mrs. Phillip said.

“We simply have a zero tolerance policy with regards to child sexual abuse. It is nonjudgmental, and we understand clearly that there is a judicial process that has to take its course, but our thing is that it must not once happen. Once is one time too many.”

A key component to the Ministry of Education’s reaction to incidents of sexual abuse in schools is the invocation of Clause 132 of the Education Act, 2002.
The Clause, which refers to misconduct of persons in the employ of government, was amended in 2012 and serves as an emergency measure for active and immediate action to preclude any further disadvantage or risk to the child or children involved.

This 2012 amendment was done in response to the reality of 2012 which saw one member of the teaching facility incarcerated as a result of a judgment brought against him in a court of law.

“It’s not the first occurrence and I hope that it would be the last but I cannot make that prophetic utterance,” Mrs. Phillip said. “I would simply say that measures have had to be put in place to protect our nation’s children.”

The formulation of a National Child Abuse Protocol has already been carried out by the Child Protection Authority (CPA). Director of the CPA, Kallon Simon, said that a series of educational sessions would soon be embarked upon with the teaching fraternity.

“In the next couple of months we will be rolling out this Child Abuse Protocol within the Ministry of Education and making sure that the front line staff understands their role and responsibility in identifying, minimizing and managing risk. They are not to investigate and they are not to intervene, the first point of contact is to report to the CPA according to Section 27 of the Child Protection Act,” Mr. Simon said.

Support for affected individuals, such as the students, teachers and parents, is available through a combined effort from the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development and the Child Protection Authority.

“We would be working jointly; the Ministry of Education has its psycho support team that would be supporting the teachers and the pupils while we at the Child Protection Authority would focus on the victim and the immediate family of the victim,” Mr. Simon said.

The Catholic Education Board of Management has also been engaged because it is a denominational school involved in this particular incident.
Mrs. Phillip closed the discussion by drawing reference to an old African Proverb; “it takes a village to raise a child.”

“All of us are villagers in the rearing of a child and we each have different skillsets and different roles to play but we work in harmony together to ensure safety in our nation’s schools.”




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