Executives from the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) are meeting today with teachers from the South East Port Of Spain Secondary School, who were traumatised by yesterday’s close call during a gang shoot-out.
At 9:15am yesterday, gunmen reportedly climbed onto rooftops of the Plannings at upper and lower Nelson Street and fired off “warning or message” gunshots at each other. Five stray bullets reportedly penetrated a classroom at the South East Port-of-Spain Secondary School. Police sources say the bullets would have entered the school’s compound from the back of the school.
TTUTA president, Antonia De Freitas, says the union stands with teachers as they advocate for increased safety and security measures in the nation’s schools.
Ms De Freitas says while the Ministry of Education has responded with increased security patrols in the area close to the school compound, this is merely an interim measure, and there is need for a more permanent solution.
The teachers’ union boss is calling on all the relevant authorities—from national security to health to education—to do their part to keep schools safe.
“Ensure that schools have the full complement of safety officers as well as MTS security guards,” she told us. “We want to ask the ministry—and ask the MTS agency—to make sure that these officers do what they are supposed to do. We would also want to encourage the Ministry of National Security to increase their patrols; increase their visits to schools. Interact with the administration,” the TTUTA president suggests, “and communicate with the students who may be at risk.”
The education ministry has given assurances that there is an increased security presence in the vicinity of the school, as well as an increase in the number of police patrols in the area.
The ministry also confirmed that following yesterday’s incident, personnel from the Student Support Services Division immediately provided counselling for staff and students and will continue to provide similar interventions as required.
Concerning school violence and student indiscipline, the TTUTA president notes that although the ministry and union agreed on all schools having school safety officers and deans of discipline, to keep the school violence to a minimum, many of those posts have not been filled.
“There are limits to what action the police can take within schools,” she explains. “There are limits to action that teachers can take in terms of student discipline.”
The teachers’ union boss adds: “There are avenues that other countries have taken to curb student violence and indiscipline. Maybe it's time we take a look at some of those, as well.”
Story by NEWS DESK
Lead image caption: Police officers outside the South East Port-of-Spain Secondary School on Nelson Street, yesterday.