A STRING of violent attacks against students and staff at the University of the West Indies’ St Augustine campus in the last two months has brought national focus to security concerns there.
In October, the robbery and assault of a female student sparked a near-riot as her peers, frustrated by the inaction of the campus administration for better security, protested by blocking one of the campus gates. During the melee two students were arrested amid allegations of police brutality.
Last Wednesday, UWI manager Maria Dass-Supersad was kidnapped from the campus by two men, one in police uniform, including a bulletproof vest, and the other in army fatigues as she made her way to her car around 3 pm The kidnappers were able to enter the campus without being stopped by security. Dass-Supersad was rescued several hours later by a team of police led by CoP Gary Griffith.
This latest kidnapping has provoked social activist Suzette Louwe to start a petition to demand better security at UWI. Louwe said seeking higher education must not be a high-risk decision, and as UWI was the premier educational institution in the country, government must step in and deal with this issue for the safety of both staff and students.
“UWI is now a hot spot,” Louwe said. “It is no secret that I have been very vocal about the lack of proper or effective security at UWI and no matter how outrageous the entire situation is, absolutely nothing has been done to improve the security conditions on campus. This is now bordering on depraved indifference by the institution and now, in my opinion, UWI is a high-risk facility.”
She said even after the kidnapping, visitors to the campus were not stopped or questioned by security guards. “This explains how those criminals were able to so easily get past security without proving they were police.”
She appealed to parents of secondary-school students who may be considering enrolling next year and those who already have children on campus to sign the petition.