Minister of Public Administration and Communications, Maxie Cuffie is set to meet with Education Minister Anthony Garcia to discuss the national school transport system following the murder of student Rachael Ramkissoon.
While the meeting date is yet to be decided, both Cuffie and Garcia yesterday vowed to improve the transportation system to ensure the safety of students while they journey to and from school and home.
Ramkissoon, 16, of Talparo Trace, Brazil, was a Form Four student of the Northeastern College, Sangre Grande.
Her body was found by a hunter soon after she was reported missing. An autopsy yesterday stated she was strangled.
Ramkissoon reportedly missed her school bus on January 13, after she overslept following a night of studies.
She called another driver she knew to take her to school but never made it to her destination.
During a visit to the school yesterday, Garcia and Cuffie both pledged to work together to find solutions to the problems affecting students accessing the free school transport provided by the Ministry of Education in collaboration with the Public Transport Service Corporation (PTSC).
Garcia said he chose to visit the school as a measure of comfort to the staff and students who remain traumatised by the incident.
He said all the responsibilities of a parent are entrusted on the shoulders of a teacher, "therefore when something like this happens, it means that every one of us as long as we are involved in the business of education, must be concerned."
Seeking to reassure the school community, Garcia went on, "What we have to do is pay a little more attention to is the safety of our students outside of school."
"I want to assure you that at the level of the Ministry of Education, we will be putting things in place to assure that our students when they leave school and before they return to their homes, they are safe."
"The school transport was one major mode of transport used by the ministry and we will be discussing this with technical officers as to alternative methods that can be used."
Urging everyone including the teachers, students and community to "Bind together to ensure there is no recurrence of such a situation," Garcia said officials from the Student Support Services Division had been assigned to provide counselling for those needing it.
Principal Jesslyn Ramlal said the entire student and staff bodies had been distraught since the news of Ramkissoon's death was announced.
"We are all trying to console one another," she said.
Driver not at fault
Meanwhile, Garcia is adamant that no blame should be placed on the driver who failed to turn back and collect Ramkissoon.
Pressed to say if protocol had been breached as a consequence, Garcia said, "Children are picked up at different venues and if a child misses one venue, that child either has to get to the other venue as quickly as possible or take alternative means of transport."
"I don't think we should attach any blame to the driver. It is an unfortunate incident and the driver is not at fault."
His statements were echoed by Cuffie who assured that Ramkissoon's family had adopted a similar position.
He said, "The family is also not attaching any blame to the driver. They understand the situation."
"As members of the public, we should not bring any additional pressure on the driver who would have been doing his job."
TTUTA and NPTA saddened over killing
Also accompanying the ministers yesterday were head of the National Parent Teacher Association (NPTA) Zena Ramatali and the T& Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) president Lynsley Doodhai.
Extending condolences to the school population, both Ramatali and Doodhai lamented the tragic loss.
Claiming it was a "traumatic situation," Ramatali added, "We would want to encourage greater community involvement so that communities must look out for children."
"We would want to call for community police to be more involved in communities and assist where some students can't afford transport and have to walk long distances. We are calling for the community police and also the Ministry and PTSC to provide transport in these instances."
MP support for greater student safety
Also present yesterday was Parliamentary Secretary Glenda Jennings-Smith, MP for Toco/Sangre Grande and whose district the school falls within, said Ramkissoon's friends had shed tears and offered prayers for her over the weekend.
Referring to Ramkissoon's Brazil community which she described as safe, Jennings-Smith said, "Today we see things happening that we are all in shock about and I call now, upon all community members in T&T, not just that community but we must all take responsibility and be the ears and eyes for the police officers."
"Community policing relies on the ears and eyes of community members and activities taking place. This reinforces the need for everyone to come together."
Cuffie said his ministry had been liaising with Ramkissoon's family with a view to assisting them with funeral arrangements.