“Trinidad and Tobago,” I patiently repeated for the second time.
“What?” She frustratingly retorted.
President of the National Parent Teachers Association (NPTA) Zena Ramatali says Education Minister Tim Gopeesingh is trying to use her as a scapegoat to avoid addressing the issue of pregnancy in schools. Speaking to the T&T Guardian yesterday, Ramatali said the minister would not help addressing the real issue facing the country’s schools by assigning blame. “The point here is not who reported whom, the ministry is totally missing the mark on this. What the NPTA is calling for is sex education to be taught in schools,” Ramatali said. She was responding to an Education Ministry release on Sunday which claimed that contrary to her statements to the media, Ramatali did not report the incidence of eight teenage pregnancies at a school in south Trinidad to the ministry.
The Ministry labelled Ramatali “grossly irresponsible and negligent,” adding she had “a duty to the parents, students and by extension the public of T&T.” Yesterday, Ramatali fired back at the Education Minister, saying she was not supposed to report anything as this was the responsibility of the principals and teachers at the school in question. Rather, she said, it was the minister who was behaving irresponsibly by not meeting with the stakeholders. “The principal of the school reported the matter to the Mon Repos police. How could the minister not know that?” she asked. She said the NPTA had been calling for meetings with Gopeesingh since March 2013 but he had refused to respond.
Ramatali said the minister could not continue to ignore the fact that sex education was much needed in schools. “Schoolchildren are having sex in the classrooms, in the schools, under steps. They engage in oral sex... and we would like that to be addressed and not who didn’t report it. There are many people who do not report incidents that have taken place in the school.” The pregnancies at the school were raised during the T&T National Council of Parent Teachers’ Association’s consultation on Saturday. Ramatali said one of the girls was pregnant before she entered the secondary system. A source at the Mon Repos Police Station said yesterday the station had no information on any matters of that nature.