PORT OF SPAIN – Gunmen climbed onto rooftops of the Plannings at Upper and Lower Nelson Street and fired off “warning/message” gunshots at each other yesterday morning when five stray bullets ended up penetrating a classroom at the South East Port-of-Spain Secondary School.
One of the bullets ricocheted and grazed a female teacher on the hand, while another bullet went just over the head of a pupil while he was sitting his end of term examination, missing his head by mere centimetres.
The teacher was in a classroom located on the second floor supervising examinations at the time of the incident which occurred during the second period of the day just before 10 am.
Guardian Media was told by police sources that the bullets would have entered the school’s compound from the back of the school.
Speaking with Guardian Media, under strict anonymity, a teacher, who was there at the time of the incident, said for certain the pupil had a guardian angel over him. “He was sitting forward in his chair writing his test, if he was only sitting up he would have been shot in the head. There were actually bullet holes in the wall to the back of the classroom and one of the bullets ricocheted and struck the teacher in her hand.”
The teacher described the “warning/messages” shots as “normal” and added that it occurs on a daily basis, “We have become so accustomed hearing gunshots all around us but now that this incident has happened and one of us injured and a child was so close to being either seriously wounded or dead it has become very traumatic that some of us are frightened to return to school.”
TT Unified Teachers’ Association (TTUTA) president Antonia DeFreitas, in an immediate response to the incident, confirmed the incident and added that there stands now “serious concerns for the lives of the teachers.”
Asked if TTUTA will be approaching the Ministry of Education to discuss relocating schools that are in high risk areas because of safety and security concerns, DeFreitas said: “There were discussions years ago but I think the time has come for those discussions to be raised again.”
When contacted an official at the ministry said that subsequent to the incident the school’s emergency protocols were immediately kicked in, which included the pupils being escorted to a safe place, security increased at the school and the police called in to do investigations and to declare the building safe again to determine when classes can resume.
The Ministry of Education said is assuring the school’s teachers, students and parents that all efforts are being made to ensure the safety of all persons on the compound.
“An increased security presence in the vicinity of the school has been arranged, in addition to an increase in the number of police patrols in the area,” the statement said.
The ministry said that a senior school supervisor from the Port-of-Spain and Environs Education District visited the school and investigated the incident. Education Minister Anthony Garcia, said, “The safety of our teachers and our students and all those of our persons who operate within the school environment, is paramount. The scare that was caused by the apparent gunshot, is of great concern to us. Our students and teachers must be allowed to operate in an environment that is safe and conducive to the effective implementation of the curriculum.”
The ministry added that following the incident, personnel from the Student Support Services Division immediately provided counselling for staff and students and will continue to provide similar interventions as required. (Guardian Media)