The National, Thursday 13th September, 2012
By ELLEN TIAMU
THREE Morobe secondary schools suspended classes again last week as student fights continued to interrupt classes and frustrate teachers and education authorities.
Morobe provincial education adviser Murika Bihoro said inter-school clashes were distressing and schools could seek police help to stop the violence.
He said fights outside school should be a police matter but the Morobe police chief believed clashes in school or outside were a school issue.
The three secondary schools in Lae – Bugandi, Bumayong and Lae – were forced to suspend classes last week following clashes.
Classes in some of those schools had been suspended more than three times over the past couple of months, while those in positions of authority had continued to pay lip service about putting a stop to inter-school fights.
Bugandi Secondary School had just resumed classes and it is believed that others have too.
Bihoro said the provincial education board was looking at ways of putting an end to the unnecessary violence.
He said the matter was serious and the board, along with other stakeholders, would look at ways to resolve the issue.
He said suspension of classes did not stop the fights.
“They are destroying opportunities for better students,” he said.
“I am concerned that half the time, many students are not attending classes and their being involved in fights is destroying their own education and future.”
He said he would try to set up a meeting with principals, parents and other parties to try to find an effective, long-term solution.
He said one suggestion would be for Grade 8 leavers to be allowed to continue based on merit, with no second selections.
Fights outside school premises should be dealt with by police, he said.
Provincial police commander David Warap said fighting inside the school boundary or outside was a matter for the schools.
He supported comments by Lae metropolitan commander Nema Mondiai that arresting brawling students was not the answer to the problem.
Warap said there were channels to be followed, which meant the schools and education authorities had to deal with the issues first before they became a police issue.
“Schools themselves and provincial education authorities must take tougher action against offending students and impose tougher discipline,” he said.
“As it is, the provincial education board seems to take the easy way out by suspending classes and hope the matter will blow away, but it doesn’t … it just comes back the following month,” Warap said.
“They are passing the buck and suspending classes and not contributing to trying to get to the bottom of the problem.”
He believed Bugandi, Lae and Bumayong were among schools that were suspending classes every month or so as a result of school fights.
Students who genuinely wanted to learn were being unnecessarily affected, he said.
“These students are taking matters into their own hands and fighting at will and parents, teachers and provincial education authorities can’t seem to contain them, why?”
“Why is it only happening in Lae and not other provinces?”
He said police would help as a last resort.
Fights among students from the various schools in Lae had been an ongoing issue for years.