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Education Minister reveals: Govt to end MTS security hold on schools
The taxpayers of T&T are forced to fork out close to $250 million annually for school security but the service was “woefully short of ability.” This was the announcement made yesterday by Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh during a press conference held at the ministry’s office at St Clair, Port-of-Spain. The minister was responding to concerns raised that there was no garbage collection and no security available at a government school in Aranguez.
Singling out The National Maintenance Training and Security Company Limited (MTS) Gopeesingh said, “One company has had the dominant share of providing security for too long. “That contract has gone on from 2004 and it is still continuing on a monthly basis. The whole question of school security leaves a lot to be desired,” Gopeesingh said. The ministry however, would be seeking to halt this practice by placing advertisements for security companies to be “done in clusters by districts.” “So we have seven districts in Trinidad and one in Tobago.
“We will have the districts dispose clusters so that you may have more than one team of security company providing that service,” Gopeesingh added. And in a bid to beef up security, he said all the officers of principals and computers rooms would be monitored using the Blink security system from TSTT. “We would be looking to do that on a pilot project to reduce cost and enhance efficiency by using the Blink system where you monitor the principals’ room and the areas of the computers labs and a number of key areas and you have a service that would give you an armed response within about ten or fifteen minutes,” Gopeesingh said.
The cost of the venture he added would cost $2,500 per month per school, amounting to some $3 million per year. “We are charged approximately $42 to 45 per hour by the security company and that has to stop,” Gopeesingh reiterated. Regarding the question of drug trafficking and indiscipline in schools the minister said despite the implementation of various task forces, there was numerous and constant deviant behaviour from secondary school students. “We are seeing a lot of deviant behaviour from secondary school students and it is continuing.
“The ministry of education over the last six months have put together an entire task force dealing with deviant behaviour, truancy and these types of abnormal and unwarranted behavioural pattern by school children particularly in the secondary schools,” Gopeesingh said. He added that recommendations were also implemented from previous task forces with the assistance of the student support services and by counsellors. Describing deviant behaviour as ‘a multi factorial problem’ Gopeesingh added, “ It stems from the home, improper guidance, community, peer pressure and from the inability of students to develop their self esteem and self worth having gone through the system and not benefiting from it.”
Also speaking at the briefing was Dr Robert Lewis, Education Minister of St Lucia who is on a three-day visit to T&T to hold discussions with Gopeesingh regarding the use of laptops in the schools of St Lucia. Responding to claims that students were able to tap into illegal Web site to download pornography Gopeesingh assured that such allegations were “in the minority.” “We have firewalls in the computers but students find a mechanism to deal with those things. It is not widespread, it is just individual cases.”