There was an obvious gap in the supervision of students at the Siparia West Secondary school when cellular phone images were recorded last week showing students beating, bullying and even taxing other students at the school compound.
Chief education officer Harrilal Seecharan said he and Education Ministry officials held two meetings yesterday with staff at the school to identify shortcomings which led to the incidents. In the three video images, no teacher or security guard is shown. The fights took place in classrooms devoid of any adult supervision.
“Based on discussions, what we found was there was a gap in the supervision of students which resulted in the incidents. Information indicated that the incidents took place during break and lunch periods and while there are clear guidelines in place for supervision at the school, there was a gap in earmarking persons for supervision during lunch time and break time. “And this is what may have resulted in these incidents and the absence of personnel at the time in terms of intervening,” Seecharan said during a news conference yesterday at the J Hamilton Room, Parliament Tower, Port of Spain. He said that after having seen incidents similar to these in other schools, Seecharan said the ministry began putting things in place in a very systematic manner.
He said all primary and secondary schools in the country have developed plans for promoting discipline in schools. “What we experienced in the past and we what we saw in this school today in terms of systems and procedures, there is basically a clear difference. What we sought to do was identify those gaps. And going forward we want to ensure there is a plan to address these gaps,” he said.
Seecharan said that based on the Education Act, principals in secondary and primary schools have a responsibility for the safety of students under their care. However, he said that has been misconstrued as the responsibility of the principal alone, as opposed to all adults on the compound, including teachers, who carried a duty of care.
“Therefore, part of our thrust of carrying out this whole discipline plan throughout schools is getting everybody on board and in the case of this school, it was getting all the teachers involved in that discipline. We have to determine whether the school has a failing plan or one that needs to tighten the gap where other incidents were seen happening during class time in class rooms,” he said.