Reducing violence in schools,Teachers seeing results from health and family life education

Education officer Sophia Brown-Sinclair (left) leading a planning and debriefing session with educators for the Health and Family Life Education programme last Tuesday. (Photo: Kasey Williams)

By Jamaica Observer

MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Educators in two south-central parishes say the inclusion of health and family life education (HFLE) in the curriculum at secondary schools has been successful in reducing incidents of violence among children.

The educators, who are among a group of 35 teachers and 15 master trainers, focus on minimising school violence by teaching conflict resolution through psychosocial interventions and empowering students to manage conflicts at school and in their communities.

Marvette Gayle-Vernon, an educator at Munro College, has been teaching HFLE for the past eight years.

“At Munro College we teach the boys life skills about adapting to challenges, helping them to make sound decisions, and be empathetic… We have instituted teaching them conflict resolution skills in our school,” she told the
Jamaica Observer recently.

“Once there is a conflict you will find where the boys are saying: ‘Remember we learnt conflict resolution.’ The students love the HFLE class and the session is lively; it is a space where they are free to speak,” she added.

Vernon, who was among a group of educators gathered at the Ministry of Education’s Region Five office in Mandeville last Tuesday for an HFLE planning and debriefing session led by education officer Sophia Brown-Sinclair, said the programme is beneficial.

“When we meet [as educators] we discuss and take to our classrooms new activities to stimulate the growth in our students,” she said.

Another educator, Maxine Reid, who teaches HFLE at deCarteret College in Mandeville, pointed to a case of two boys involved in a conflict at her school and one of them avoided a confrontation.

“He said, ‘Miss, you taught me in HFLE that if I can’t walk away, I must run.’ I taught him that from second form and now he is in fifth form,” she said.

“HFLE is very important now because it teaches the students coping skills that allow them to keep themselves safe and to keep others safe. I teach the students how to solve conflicts, how to talk it out instead of fighting, and it is working,” Reid added and pointed out that students are attentive during the HFLE sessions.

“The students come long before the time for class. HFLE is very important because it teaches the students how to be resilient, it teaches them how to deal with setbacks and issues,” she said.

“If we get everybody on board, get the parents to understand what HFLE is, I know it will be very beneficial,” added Reid.

The educator said the HFLE curriculum is not limited to conflict resolution.

“We have psychosocial activities; it is not all about sitting and learning life skills. We also give them stuff to enjoy, for them to have a little fun… The first part of the lesson is getting them to be comfortable because, based on some of the topics that we [examine] like sexuality — and some students must be apprehensive — we let them be comfortable in the space before we actually start [teaching],” she explained.

Andria Strong-Moses, vice-principal at Black River High, commended the initiative.

“Our HFLE programme is a very strong one and our students are taught necessary life skills. They will also, at times, go off on a tangent and have disagreements and issues but it is always a sort of compass to remind them of the skills they were taught and how they can calm down,” she said.

“We use all the methods we can at our school to affirm our students. They are rewarded for good deeds like finding money, returning items, and so it balances the misconducts. A child will ask, ‘Miss, you going to call my name Monday morning?’ [during devotion]. They love to be affirmed,” added Strong-Moses.