PORT OF SPAIN – Education minister Anthony Garcia has once again made the call to principals to enforce the ban on cell phones with cameras in all schools. The only cell phones which will be allowed into schools will be those without cameras.
Garcia made the call in the wake of an incident involving two Form Two students at Fatima College, Port-of-Spain, who were recorded in an act being described as a children’s prank.
The video, which was subsequently posted on social media, incensed many, with some expressing the concern one of the boys had been sexually assaulted by the other.
Yesterday, Garcia said the latest incident had driven home why the cell phone ban should be enforced. He said the videotaping of incidents in schools could have dire consequences, adding that the two students “could be labelled for life”.
“They were engaging in child’s play. . . a normal thing for boys that age to engage in that kind of play,” Garcia said.
He said the parents of the students had also agreed it was child’s play and were satisfied no harm was done.
Garcia said the ban on cell phones with cameras in schools had been the ministry’s policy for the past ten years but it was up to the principals to ensure this was done. He said it was also the responsibility of school supervisors to liaise with principals to ensure the policy was carried out.
Pressed on why principals had not been enforcing the policy, Garcia said it was not for him to answer but rather the various school administrators, as this was part of the operational aspect.
Meanwhile, the principal at the centre of the latest incident which sparked Garcia’s latest edict, Fatima College Fr Gregory Augustine, said it was unfortunate because someone in the class filmed the incident, which was against school regulations as cell phones with cameras were not permitted.
In speaking about the incident, Augustine said, “I am really amazed in the kind of interest that people have in a two-second video and that people can come to a judgment from two seconds.
“This is a boy playing the fool. He was spoken to and that’s it. He acted foolishly, imprudently and he was spoken to with his mother.”
He said it was unfortunate the “foolish play” was being termed as “rape” by some who saw it on social media.
“I really don’t understand . . . how people could form an opinion from two seconds. . . and for people to come up with a thesis. I really find it odd and we need to be much more discerning,” Augustine said.
Asked about why the student was screaming when the act was being performed on him, Augustine said one must understand the context in which the incident occurred.
“People don’t know. The screaming was part of the play and children do scream and carry on. He may not have liked it . . . what I’m saying is he was not assaulted, he was not hospitalized, he was not traumatized,” he said.
He added: “People are not willing to step back and think. Everybody is rushing to say . . . rape . . . abuse . . . not everything is that, particularly when the clip is so short. They need to ask appropriate questions and find out and you cannot hide anything today.”
He assured there were no cover-ups on the part of the school, saying, “Everything is out there.”
He also said he himself had nothing to hide.
Augustine said the families of both boys were satisfied the matter was appropriately handled, adding that boys were “back to school and normal.”
On whether the incident may have tainted the school’s image, Augustine said: “Children play the fool in every school. The issue here is a child playing the fool and in every institution when children play the fool they are corrected and guided.”
On whether he was worried that the boy who committed the act could engage in inappropriate behaviour against other students, Augustine said he was not.
“I am not worried about that at all because he understood his wrong. He has learnt his lesson. He felt badly and more so now as it went viral,” he said.
“This is a regular child who is quite well adjusted who is very much into sports. He is not a criminal.
“This is not about Fatima because it is a boy school . . . this has always happened since time immemorial.”