St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): There is no protocol currently in place within the Ministry of Education for when a student goes missing.
That’s according to William Hodge, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education.
He was speaking at a press conference Monday (May 22) about missing Basseterre High School student, 17-yr-old Leanna Napoleon.
“This situation now definitely gives rise to something of that nature, a protocol being used. This is something that is foreign to us as a country, foreign to the education system here. It is not something that we have had to deal with on this magnitude so definitely it is something that would have to be considered as a matter of urgency.”
When asked if such a policy would be put in place, and by extension added to the draft of the Federal Youth Policy, Minister of Education Shawn Richards said that the existing draft policy does not speak to how to deal with missing youth, only the rights, roles and responsibilities of youth in St. Kitts and Nevis.
He said however, that regulations governing school safety are currently being looked at.
“What I can say to you is that the Ministry has been continuously looking at the regulations governing our students. While you have this particular incident, from time to time we also have incidents involving students, be it incidents involving fights, be it incidents involving parents or other persons going on to the school compound, and so, when you look at everything that has been happening, we continuously look at our regulations. The fact is what happens within the schools and outside of the schools isn’t always something constant. We have for example, an education officer who is responsible for looking at school safety, and school safety does not just pertain to incidents such as this or fights, we look at natural disasters and everything pertaining to the safety of students, teachers and all other persons who work within the education sector."
Mr. Hodge urged parents to always be aware of their children’s whereabouts, and be especially vigilant around examination time.
“Here is where we need to make the call to parents. Parents have to know where their children are at all times, and especially after the normal school hours. Right now there is a hustle and bustle of students who are preparing for examinations, and so they are meeting with their friends and their study groups and so on, sometimes late into the evening. This is something that parents have to be in control of, I would even go to the extent to say they might even have to do some spot-checking, walk to where they think they are, get on a bus, get in your vehicle, go to where you know your child is and just double-check to make sure that they are there.”
The Education Permanent secretary added that truancy officers should be re-established in the schools to supervise students after school hours.