The issue of gang violence – this time among school children – is attracting discussion not only among members of the public, but the Cabinet of Antigua and Barbuda.
Over the past several weeks, there have been incidents of knife and cutlass-wielding attacks by factions from one school on students from other schools.
As recently as Monday, November 21, an Antigua Grammar School student was attacked by a group of other youth; and last Friday, November 18, a pupil of the Clare Hall Secondary was stabbed at the school gate by a young man wearing a ski mask.
The violence has escalated to the point where entertainment spots, such as the cinema complex, have become a ground for such attacks.
A video now in wide circulation shows a group of young men in a confrontation at Caribbean Cinemas. One of the youth can be seen pulling a cutlass from his waist, while others run to safety inside the building.
Minister of Education Daryl Matthew reportedly addressed the issue of school gangs during the Executive meeting held on Wednesday, November 23, stating that retaliatory actions by gang members have spawned a series of attacks against students.
While the Police have been called in to help arrest the problem, Matthew says these “behaviours are triggered by students from dysfunctional families.”
Therefore, the Cabinet has directed the Ministry of Social Transformation to have its social workers and others trained in this field prepare a paper that addresses solutions, which will be presented to the Cabinet as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, the Police reportedly have stepped up patrols, with two male students being held by officers at a football match on Tuesday, November 22. They were reportedly found with sharp objects that could be used as weapons.
Reports say the students, aged 15 and 17 years, have since been released into the custody of their parents, according to the provisions of the Child Justice Act.
Further reports are that a self-styled school gang – made up of males from various secondary schools – is responsible for the attack on the Antigua Grammar School student who sustained a serious chop wound to his right arm.
There are also allegations about a gang of female students, whose members have been sending death threats to other pupils.
In the meantime, several parents have complained to REAL News that their children have been assaulted and injured, and the Police have not responded with any sense of urgency to round up or arrest the perpetrators, even when they have been identified.
One father tells our Newsroom that if the Police will not treat the matter seriously, he is prepared to respond with violence on any youth who assaults his children.