Last update: 04-Dec-2013 12:33 pm
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Teachers’ boycott over gang violence
Teachers at the Pleasantville Secondary School have decided to boycott classes for a week demanding that the Education Ministry address gang warfare and other issues plaguing the school. When the teachers returned to school yesterday after the long vacation, they stayed away from classes and subsequently walked off the job. School was subsequently dismissed at 12.45 pm. Navin Ramai, a representative of the T&T Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA), said a meeting was held with the school supervisor, but teachers were no longer prepared to work under the conditions at the school. “We are giving them a week,” said Ramai, who also teaches at the school, which has 100 teachers and 800 students.
He said last term the union sent an eight-page letter outlining the teachers’ health, safety and security issues. Gang violence, gambling, indiscipline, incomplete or abandoned buildings, rat and snake infestation and holes in the wire fence were just some of the issues, he said. “Students are indisciplined. We have two notorious gangs—the Bloods and the Crips—on the compound and there is a lot of fighting for turf. Police are coming in here on average twice a week.” He said there were not enough security guards to patrol and deal with issues in the school. To compound matters, he said the CCTV cameras were disabled and never put back up, and the wire fence around the school perimeter has holes and is crumpled in some areas. “Pleasantville is a high-risk area,” he said. “Students are scanned, but when there are fights in the school people throw weapons through the holes or over the fence for students to use, and later the people pass and pick them back up.”
Because the school is so big and has so many derelict buildings, he said, it was difficult to supervise all the students. “If students break class to gamble, or (for) sexual activity, because the Pleasantville campus is very large they can spend the entire day in those buildings and the administration will be totally unaware.” He said work on the school began in 2007 and it was supposed to be completed in three years, but it was never completed. In addition, he said construction materials were left strewn all over the compound. “They stopped when the buildings were three-quarter completed and they are abandoned.” “There are rocks, bricks, cement, iron, steel and when children engage in fighting they will pick up any of those things and pelt.” He said last year two students were using pieces of the iron as javelins on the field and a student was struck on the neck and needed 12 stitches.
Other issues include:
Inadequate changing rooms at the Technical/Vocational Department
Flooding at Physical Education Department.
Dilapidated pre-fabricated buildings which are used as classes
Ramai said among the recommendations they suggested to the ministry were the removal of repeat offenders, providing counselling and sending them to Servol, the Military-Led Youth Programme of Apprenticeship or the Reorientation Training or Youth Training Centre. Contacted yesterday, the Education Ministry’s media relations co-ordinator ,Yolanda Morales-Carvalho, said the teachers’ actions were unjustified, as the Education Facilities Company Ltd was assiduously addressing the situation at the school. With regard to gang warfare at the school, she said, “That is not an issue that justifies the closure of the school. The ministry has a system in place to deal with that.” She said the ministry had increased the number of guidance officers and counsellors, and a team will be assigned to each school. Even if none was assigned to Pleasantville, she said, a request should have been made to the ministry. She said she was not aware of the rat and snake infestation.
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