MISS CURSES, ABUSES STUDENTS
By AZARD ALI Wednesday, July 4 2012
A female teacher spat on a Standard Two student at a Hindu primary school in south Trinidad, a week ago, prompting angry parents to demand her immediate dismissal during an emergency meeting yesterday.
The teacher’s action toward eight-year-old Daniel Blucher, a student at Happy Hill Hindu Primary School, Gasparillo is the latest on a long list of complaints made against her by the principal, parents and colleagues to the Education Ministry and Teaching Service Commission over the past 18 months.
The Education Ministry confirmed the numerous reports of the teacher’s alleged abuse of children, which includes writing profane words on the blackboard, is well documented.
Being spat upon by his own teacher was so traumatic for Daniel, his mother, Ashanti Bovell, 30, has since sent him abroad.
Daniel’s mother told Newsday he related the incident to her when he arrived from school at their home on Allen Street, Gasparillo last Thursday.
It was at about lunchtime when box lunches were being served, but Daniel and the rest of his class were engaged in the end of term mathematics test.
Bovell said Daniel told her the teacher placed a box of food on his mathematics question paper and it became smeared with gravy.
The mother told Newsday, “Daniel said to her, ‘Miss, you have the food on top of my paper.’ She shouted at him and then she spit on his face. Another child next to Daniel told her, ‘Miss, you spit on Daniel.’ She began to shout down the boy too.”
Bovell said her son sat in his classroom and cried while another child wiped his face. The ministry’s communications manager, Yolande Morales-Carvalho, said the spitting incident is currently engaging the attention of the Teaching Service Commission.
Principal Chandai Maharaj told Newsday she sent a letter to the ministry about the incident and confirmed previous communication about the teacher’s behaviour.
Maharaj said, “I have sent a report today (yesterday) to the Ministry of Education and I’m looking forward to a speedy resolution.”
Parents who held a meeting at the school yesterday said they came close to a physical confrontation with the teacher because spitting on a child was an unpardonable act.
During the meeting, the teacher was attempting to leave the compound in her car, but was blocked in the car park by another teacher’s vehicle which developed mechanical problems. She began to honk the car horn loudly and with such persistence, that the meeting had to be stopped for 15 minutes.
Teachers and parents gathered in front of the school building and related a number of incidents involving the teacher, which they described as bordering on mental instability. They said the Gasparillo police had to intervene on two occasions.
Parent Marsha Jaggessar said, “The teacher wrote a curse word on the blackboard and asked the class to pronounce the word.” Jaggessar also said the teacher scraped her daughter, Alliyya, on the face.
Hasina Ali, another parent, said her child was slammed against a cupboard by the teacher, when she complained to the teacher about not being able to understand something she had taught them.
Miranda Singh said as a form of punishment, her son was summoned outside the school by the teacher who opened the door to her vehicle and slammed it on the child’s hand. The school’s PTA president, Niala Ramnarine, said, “On two occasions parents made reports to the Gasparillo Police Station and police officers came to the school about these same abuses to the children. We have written letters and petitions to the school supervisor and the ministry. Do you know we have not gotten any response?”
Maharaj said she is aware of all the complaints and had acted on them by writing letters notifying the ministry. “I cannot give details because these are matters that are in the hands of the ministry and involves a teacher. Only today (yesterday) I sent off a letter to the ministry about Thursday’s incident in which a pupil was spat on and I await an early resolution to the situation,” she said.
All of the parents, including Bovell, said if the teacher is not removed from the school, they will withhold their children from classes when the new school year begins in September.
A senior teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity, described the situation as very volatile. He said, “It is about 18 months now complaints have been made against this teacher, of all sorts of dirty acts, but nothing is done. The parents said they will tear her apart, and that could have happened today (yesterday).”
An official at the ministry’s offices in San Fernando, with responsibility for the Victoria education division, confirmed reports from Maharaj, but pointed out that further investigations were required.
“All reports that were sent by the principal are receiving the attention of the Ministry of Education. I’m calling on the parents to have some patience and allow the matter to take its course,” the official said.
Secretary General of the Sanatan Dharma Maha Sabha, which is the denominational body under which the school’s operates, Sat Maharaj said yesterday the teacher should be removed from the school because she may be in need of psychiatric help.
“I say, let the law take its course because we cannot permit that kind of behaviour. The lady needs help. But the ministry and the Teaching Service Commission is so ill equipped to handle cases like these,” he said. “The lady needs help and therefore she should be removed from the system and given medical help. We will take action if you wouldn’t because we need to protect the children.”
Sat said the teacher has been teaching at the school for the past 20 years, but her behaviour began to change about three years ago.