Thirteen schools across Tobago gathered at the Lowlands Gulf City Mall for an anti-bullying rally on Tuesday morning.
Newsday was told the secondary school student councils chose to combat school violence though an anti-bullying two-day rally and conference campaign because of the serious impact bullying had on students at school and in homes across Tobago.
A little after 8.30 am, schools in the east of Tobago gathered at Shaw Park Cultural Complex and walked along the Lambeau Old Road while schools in the west of the island assembled at the Licensing Office, Shirvan Road, from where the students marched along the Mt Pleasant Old Road. They met at the Lowlands Gulf City Mall.
Kimmery Richardson-Thomas, chairman of the Tobago Association of Student Councils, told Newsday the initiative was generated out of the UN International Children's Emergency Fund (Unicef) Principal’s Conference in collaboration with the Division of Education, Innovation and Energy, where all nine secondary school student councils were asked to organise a rally focused on an issue significantly affecting Tobago students.
She said this is the first time a school rally as significant as this had been organised for an anti-bullying campaign by Tobago schools.
“We hope people become more sensitised to the fact that violence in our schools will not be tolerated and students who are being bullied will see they have a voice. The children who are victims of bullying need to know as schools we are not letting this issue go idly by, and those who are bullies will understand that we are aware, we are monitoring and we will combat that.”
Sherry-Anne Rollocks-Hackett, a school supervisor, said it was now mandatory for schools officials to document and report all incidents of bullying.
She also told Newsday, “We have had cases reported of some students who are cutting themselves, and this is as a result of being bullied. Bullying is real to the students, and as school supervisor I endorse the fact that it is an issue that is worthwhile and deserving of this kind of attention.”
She said many parents had come to the division complaining about their children being bullied and even asked for their children to be transferred to other schools, "even though bullying is not a reason we give transfers to children. Only because the victim is usually very torn up over the issue we must facilitate the transfer.”
On day-two of the campaign, 50 students from each school were invited to an anti-bullying conference featuring Dr Wendell Wallace. Rollocks-Hackett said those attending will include bullies and victims of bullying and the conference will focus on behavioural change.
The Education Division plans to host a number of workshops against school violence this year.