x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Sharjah Police take bad behaviour fight to classrooms

Police and education authorities in Sharjah are joining forces in a bid to prevent bad behaviour in schools such as smoking, fighting and truancy.

SHARJAH // Police and education authorities in Sharjah are joining forces in a bid to prevent bad behaviour in schools such as smoking, fighting and truancy.

A new programme called "Security Culture" is being launched in partnership with Sharjah Education Council (SEC) and will initially be employed in 21 government schools at the beginning of the second term in January, said Aisha Seif, the secretary general of the SEC. She added that plans are being made to expand the programme to "more government schools and private schools from the start of the new academic year".

Trained police officers would visit the schools at least once a week to teach students the virtues of Islam like respect, patience and obedience.

Pupils would be divided into three different groups: primary, secondary and higher school.

Each group would have its specialised programmes, from making cartoons to seminars, exhibitions and drama plays.

It is hoped that the programme will help students mature into respected well-nurtured citizens, said Maj Gen Huzaidi Mohammed al Hudaidi, the director general of Sharjah Police.

"We don't want to say that Sharjah children are bad mannered," he said "In fact, such instances of bad behaviour are minimal - but getting them to zero is better."

He said that instances of violence in schools reported recently had ranged from students fighting each other to assaulting teachers. However, he could not give numbers for the violence cases.

"Police had taken up some of the violence cases and others were referred to court," he added.

The "security culture" programme is mostly centred on good morals. Mere academic work could not instil these morals and this is why police are stepping in to bridge this gap, said Lt Col Khalid al Hammadi the police director of training and head of the new programme.

"We want to focus on prevention rather than cure," he said. "If students are cultured with good manners in school they would be good citizens in future."

Last month, police were called at a private school in Sharjah after 10 schoolgirls were found in possession of a tobacco product classified as a drug.

Authorities were called by the school's headmistress, who resigned following the incident, after girls, aged between nine and 13, were found with Chaini Khaini.

The product has already been banned and inspectors have been asked to make sure it has been withdrawn from the local market, Abdullah Sultan al Mualla, the Sharjah Municipality director general said at the time.

It is good for officers to develop a relationship with pupils and be an added layer of support, as well as authority, for the children, said Osama Ali, who has three children in Sharjah schools.

But some parents had concerns. Adil Ahmed said that police presence in schools would raise questions about when school discipline should be handled by police or the school administrators.

"When an officer does not witness an incident and administrators decide to involve them, then its different," he said. "But when an individual officer witnesses bad behaviour at a school and decides to take action the consequences could be severe."

Zahid Hajj another parent attributed the school indiscipline to the abolition of corporal punishment. "There will never be discipline in schools until caning is brought back," he said.

"Children misbehave knowing full well that teachers cannot react to whatever they do. So to introduce a system where the teachers can, at minimum, restrain the pupil if needed without the fear of losing their jobs would help."

Hussein Mohammed, a teacher at al Amana school, said that some parents were to blame for their children's misbehaviour.

"Children copy the behaviour they see at home," he said. "They bring those models with them and this can affect discipline in schools."

He said that stubborn behaviour, such as pupils refusing to stop talking, sit down, fighting and undermining teachers, was partly to blame on disrespectfulness among the models they had copied at home.

"If there is no respect at home, there will be no respect at school."

Mr Adil had this advice to teachers, as they established a behaviour policy for the school. He said they should explain to pupils why something is unacceptable, "otherwise pupils do not know why something is wrong".