As the police take responsibility for dealing with school violence and the Ministry of Education (MoE) sets up a team to address the overwhelming fights seen weekly, Vicar General of the Roman Catholic Church Fr Martin Sirju says these juvenile aggressors are simply hurt children.
Addressing the Feast of La Divina Pastora at the La Divina Pastora RC Church in Siparia on Sunday, Sirju said the place for students engaged in violence was not prison.
“The solution is not to expel them from schooling. The solution is not to exclude them from an educational future.
“Prison, my dear friends, is not where these children belong.
“What these children need is a sense of family and admiration and love and knowing that they are intelligent. All you have to do is find the right key. If you find the right key, you can unlock their minds,” Sirju said.
Last Month, the MoE announced that Community Police would be at 15 secondary schools to deal with outbreaks of student violence.
As it works on a draft national school discipline matrix, the ministry also wrote acting Commissioner of Police Mc Donald Jacob for advice on removing violent students from the school environment to one that can offer them rehabilitative services.
The MoE also asked the TTPS to patrol outside and near the schools in question at the close of the day.
Sirju, a former Parish Priest, told the congregation that children were not born violent but learned it through social interaction.
He said they needed a Shepherd to reach out to them and touch their souls.
He believes the violence introduced to T&T by former colonial masters negatively affects society today.
Therefore, he said the country should look into the causes of the violent acts and do better for the children.
He said: “A child is not born violent. A child becomes violent as a child is socially determined by violence. In Psychology, hurting people hurt others.
“They are hurting dear friends, and if we are going by the newspaper reports, it seems that most of the children are from one class and from one ethnic group, and something is very wrong with that, and most of them are boys.”
He said researchers found that suicide among males was four times higher during the pandemic, showing that something was significantly wrong.
Sirju said children sometimes get angry with their mothers if they have a perception that she prefers other people’s children.
He said it was not the case as sometimes other people’s children need more love, and she is sharing.
He said just like Mary is the mother of all families, so should worshippers.
Sirju recounted a story told to him as Parish Priest by Angela Phillip.
Phillip’s children were younger, her son confided that someone was bullying him at school. When her son asked her to do something about it, Phillip asked her son why did he not invite the bully home.
“How many of you would do that? How many of you would think like that?”
The boy accepted the invitation to go to Phillip’s home, and Sirju said over time, his behaviour changed.
“And so, through her wisdom: what she and her family discovered was that the boy needed love.
“The boy needed attention. The boy needed a family. The boy needed community.”
Sirju said Phillip taught her children the value of family and inclusivity.
He likened this to Mary, who taught Jesus inclusivity and family, who later shared these principles when he started his ministry.
Sirju said Jesus was not born with humanity but learned from Mary, and his earthly father, Joseph.