PORT OF SPAIN –– Minister of Education Anthony Garcia says his ministry is moving to implement measures listed in an Anti-Bullying Report to curb the recent spate of school violence.
Garcia was speaking in the wake of several videos of school bullying being posted on social media.
Viewers on the social sites have expressed outrage at the footage as one of the latest incidents which shows a Form 3 student being bullied, beaten and kicked by a Form 5 student at a Williamsville Secondary School.
In a follow-up video related to the same incident, the victim’s relatives are attacked by the same bully and others in the presence of teachers and parents.
These two videos have over 100,000 views and 2,200 shares.
In another video at another school, a teacher is seen allegedly cursing a group of students for causing mischief by emptying the fire extinguishers and playing cards.
And in a separate incident at a school in Aranguez, another student’s head was shaved by bullies while he waited for the school shuttle to go home.
In a telephone interview yesterday, Garcia said: “We can’t allow this to continue and it is a concern to us and the ministry. Every effort will be made to stop this which has crept into our education.”
He said every effort was being made to implement the Anti-Bullying Report which was developed by the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of National Security.
“Action will be taken urgently to implement this report,” he said.
First vice president of the T&T Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA), Antonia De Freitas, said the ministry needed to support schools to implement a discipline matrix.
“We have a situation where there are some students who are out of hand, and these students make choices to take certain courses of action,” she said.
De Freitas said in some instances there was a full complement of safety officers and security officers but some contracts were due to expire soon.
“We need a support to create a discipline matrix in the school and be empowered to follow through,” she said.
She said the actions of some students warranted suspension, and if continued without consequences they became empowered.
“They could hire more security and manpower and train more officers so they are able to do and discipline. In some schools the scanners are not working and it can add up to a situation. It’s not like they are not trying but don’t have support from the state,” she said.
De Freitas said certain structures should be in place and for the parents as well.
“Some parents can’t cope with the students and that’s another reality. They need intervention and require support and adjustment,” she said.
Stop The Bullying founder Lana Boodoo-Maharaj said school bullying was not being dealt with by people as they acted as though it was not an issue.
“As a parent who has faced this issue with both my sons, I beg for those in authority to do something now before it’s too late. It’s escalating, getting more violent. How many more of our children are we going to lose due to bullying?” she asked.
She said all stakeholders and the ministry needed to find some kind of solutions to deal with bullying and violence.
“The victims of bullying are the ones who suffer the most. The trauma, the humiliation, the broken bones.
How much longer must we allow bullies to do to our children before we as parents and guardians stand up and say no more?” she questioned.