After the murders of several schoolchildren in the past week, Education Minister Anthony Garcia is sounding an alarm about crimes being committed against students. He pledged support for families of victims and their peers.
TT has recorded one of its most violent years in recent history. In 2018, bullets prematurely ended the lives of several students, mainly young men. The year started with the murder of Morvant Laventille Secondary School student Joshua Andrews, 14, who was shot and killed along with PH taxi driver Devon Hernandez. One of the bullets hit the gas tank of Hernandez’s gold Elantra, which exploded, trapping Andrews and Hernandez inside.
Other teenage boys killed in 2018 include Kareem Forde,16, a Form Four student of South East Port of Spain Secondary School, who was killed at his John John, Laventille home in April. Fourth Form student of Shiva Boys’ College Noah Simmons,16, was shot and killed at his Gopaul Lands, Marabella home on May 8. A suspect is now before the court charged with Simmons’s murder. In July Mikeel Caesar, 16, of the Servol Regional Training and Resource Centre, was shot and killed at Plaisance Road, Laventille. Last Monday the body of missing 13-year-old Joash Pantin, of Trinity College, was found in bushes near his home at Cashew Street, Carlsen Field. On Tuesday night, Isaiah Marshall, a 15-year-old form four student of Barataria South Secondary School, became the latest victim when he was shot dead in the garage of a friend’s home at Eastern Quarry, Laventille. Reports of students being raped and beaten, some by their peers, have also dominated local headlines for the year. In September four schoolboys were taken before the Children’s Court in Fyzabad after a video which went viral showed a student of the Princes Town West Secondary School being kicked and his head stamped on by schoolmates.Now Garcia is expressing deep concern over the increasing number of crimes committed against schoolchildren, which is stretching the resources of his ministry’s Student Support Services Division.
A release from the ministry said for this week, the SSSD, comprising guidance officers and school social workers, has been kept busy doing joint interventions supporting students and families traumatised by recent events. They include events “causing the death of one primary school student, three secondary school students, suicide intervention for one male secondary school student and the sexual assault of one female secondary school student.”
These interventions included “consultation sessions with principals, form teachers and parents, conducting home visits and providing support in about six cases, providing support and safety tips to students through classroom debriefing sessions in these schools, identifying targeted students in each school for individual counselling and psycho-social intervention, referring teachers to Employee Assistance Services where necessary,” the statement said.
Garcia told parents the division remains committed to all students and will work with minimal disruptions of classes as students are sitting end-of-term examinations.
“While the majority of the students are resilient, some through peer relationships require additional intervention. Each case will be monitored on an individual basis and will be referred to our Diagnostic and Assessment and Intervention Unit for additional counselling if deemed necessary,” Garcia said.