A CALL has been made for the Success Laventille Secondary School to be relocated, in light of continued fears over the crime situation there.
While students, parents, and teachers are facing grave risks that must be acted on urgently, relocation is not a viable option. Nor does it send the appropriate message.
Undoubtedly, president of the National Parent-Teacher Association (NPTA) Raffiena Ali-Boodoosingh is justified in calling on Education Minister Anthony Garcia to take action.
“I think it will be a good idea to remove the children from the building and rebuild the school in a different location,” Ali-Boodoosingh said on Thursday after a meeting of the school’s PTA was disrupted by the sound of gunshots.
A senior police official told Newsday there have been four shootings near the school this year, and most of them were from stray bullets from rival gangs. Teachers say the building is on a border between warring Beetham and Picton gangs and gunshots are a daily occurrence. Last week, an incident of the firing of a volley of gunshots left one lab assistant severely traumatised.
The trauma alone is a good reason why the school should possibly pack up shop. Every time an incident occurs, it triggers memories of the 2016 murder of two students who were killed in their school uniforms not long after leaving the school. No amount of counselling can ever cure anyone of the pain of that awful event.
However, the sad truth is, crime is a reality wherever the school might be moved to. The migration of criminal gangs is well documented. Laventille does have a particular stigma as a location where there are heightened levels of crime.
But is it statistically any different from other “hotspot” areas? Is it regarded as bad because of the facts, or are the facts interpreted in a way that matches the general perception of Laventille as bad?
Whatever the case, an educational institution cannot be expected to operate like a rolling stone or a lost tribe. A school is a microcosm of society. To pack up and leave is to concede the area to the criminal elements. It is to undermine the very notion of the rule of law.
It is precisely because the crime situation is bad in the area that the school should remain. It must become an agent of change, a base from which the community rebuilds and galvanises itself. This means strong civic engagement with stakeholders who live nearby, as well as people who travel in and out of it.
For that to happen, what is really needed is adequate resourcing, not relocation. Security measures must be bolstered alongside levels of community outreach.
In this regard, direct assistance from the central Government is crucial.
This is a test the State cannot fail.