“It’s a day to speak to that co-worker you have not spoken to for the past five years,” said Project PURPLE Coordinator, Dr. Tricia Esdaille, as she described what Peace Day on Wednesday, October 26th is all about.
“Part of Passion For Peace Week, October 22-28, Peace Day, is an opportunity for reconciliation, forgiveness, generosity and pleasantness,” Dr. Esdaille explained, adding, “It’s the day to be the best you that you can be! The best version of yourself.”
Dr. Tricia Esdaille
Project PURPLE was conceptualized in response to the issue of bullying in schools, which is also associated with the gang culture and other challenges in the school environment. Its main objective is to make schools a safety zone for children and to bring about a policy of non-tolerance of anti-social behaviour.
Five schools were chosen as pilots for the project including Basseterre High, Charles E. Mills Secondary, Cayon High, Charlestown Secondary and Verchilds High.
Dr. Esdaille said while it was largely school based, the Ministry of Education recognized the importance of getting the general public to rally behind such an important project, which affects our most precious resource –“The Children” – and has the potential to threaten our safety and well-being. She said she was impressed with the show of support from some individuals, corporate and media partners given the projects’ potential to affect everyone in the society.
Commenting on the failure of some businesses to participate initially, she stated that “while many of us remain stuck in red-tape and policies, our teenage daughter may be afraid to attend school due to a threatening school mate, and our son may be struggling with the pull of the gang culture.” She added that we are all vividly aware of the impact of that culture on our present existence, both in our professional and personal lives.” She assured that her observation was not an effort to belittle such organizations but to broaden their knowledge of the realities of school life nowadays as well. She emphasized that this was an opportunity for others to “come on board” noting that they would be welcomed with open arms.
“While the public awareness aspect of the project is centred around Passion For Peace Week, the project will be ongoing; become a part of the schools’ curriculum and will have scope for parental and community involvement,” Dr. Esdaille revealed. The week of activities is really just one component of a comprehensive and aggressive programme geared at making comfortable learning the focus of school life.
Exploring the possibilities of Peace Day specifically, she said the opportunities are vast. Leaving it up to everyone’s creativity, Dr Esdaille expressed hope that people would make an extra effort to be “considerate and thoughtful, de-escalate aggression, apologise, give up the need to be right, give up the need to win! Put your best foot forward.” Given that this kind of behaviour is usually infectious, she added that it was likely to continue into the future. “Refuse to argue. Refuse to complain. It’s a challenge!” she remarked.
With a full week of activities planned, the co-ordinator added that there are many ways for persons to get involved. She confessed that she was wary of the inclination to speak about problems rather than to act on opportunities. She said, however, that she was optimistic that presented with the challenges of violence in schools as well as the opportunity to make a difference, individuals would take the necessary action.
Activities for the week include: Open Day on Tuesday October 24th, during which everyone is invited to visit schools in their community to observe projects which have been done by students as a show of moral support; Peace Day on Wednesday 25th (as explained previously); Radio Panel Discussions on Thursday 26th – Youth take to the airwaves to discuss real issues that are affecting them in school; Peace March and Rally on Friday 28th – Youngsters march in solidarity as they depict the issues with banners, converging at Warner Park for a non-threatening fun day and empowerment activity organised for their enjoyment and enlightenment.
During the week there will be special assemblies at schools and opportunities for students to express their ideas in relation to bringing about positive change. More importantly said Dr. Esdaille, this is a day for us not just to look on but to join in the march and rally in support of our children excelling in school and feeling comfortable in that environment and beyond. Let your child know you stand behind them and will not be silent until this evil is exposed and eradicated.” Dr. Esdaille said.
Public Service Announcements For Promoting PURPLE: Understanding, Respect and Peace in the Learning Environment, have been aired by many of the local media houses. Dr. Esdaille expressed gratitude in this regard. She noted, also, the continued support and leadership of Education officials including Hon. Minister Nigel Carty, current Permanent Secretary, Ionie Willett, former Permanent Secretary, Osmond Petty and Acting Minister of Education Hon. Patrice Nisbett.
The project is spearheaded by the Ministry of Education with support from UNICEF and other local partners.