Darlene Smith, guidance officer II at the Ministry of Education Student Support Services yesterday called on adults not to use the umbrella of Carnival to stain and corrupt students and young adults’ minds during the Carnival season.
“It takes a village to raise a child and while we wish people to have fun during this important festival, let us not destroy the beauty of Carnival by staining and corrupting our young students and children who are vulnerable. As adults we can enjoy ourselves by remaining positive role models for all our nation’s children.”
Addressing a press conference entitled “Carnival Safety and Awareness programme, Be Carnival Safe,” at the Education Towers, Abercromby Street Port of Spain, Smith said teachers have effectively been addressing their curriculum to re-enforce the pre-Carnival safety tips through the delivery of their respective Social Studies, VAPA (Visual and Performing Arts) and HFLE (Health and Family Life Education) curricula.
Smith said the ministry has already engaged 320 primary schools and 78 secondary schools throughout the country.
She said they will continue to address the remaining schools leading up to Carnival 2019.
“When minors are dressed up they appear to look older than they truly are. We need to be careful in giving young children alcoholic drinks and drugs. I am appealing to the adult male, to please do not use the umbrella of Carnival to give minors drugs and alcohol.
“Alcohol is more easily accessible during the Carnival season, parents and guardians please observe what drinks our children have access to at home and by friends. Experimentation while it is a norm can become risky behaviours.”
Smith also called on adults not to use the festival celebration to dance and gyrate on minors.
She said this can be construed as sexual grooming which is an offence and will not be accepted by the Crime Protection Unit, the Children’s Authority or the ministry.
“This initiative have been successfully achieved through the continued assistance and collaboration of several key stakeholders which include the Ministry of National Security, the Ministry of Health, Childline, Lifeguards, Gambling Anonymous, Positivity Tours, Rape Crisis Centre, New Life Ministries and many inspirational and motivational speakers.
“Topics include safety on the school compound prior to Carnival, on the streets, at home for the long weekend, at camps, risks being in pools, rivers and sea, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual misconduct, date rape drugs, and vaping risks.”
Smith said there is a date rape drug circulating in several parties at the schools which students have alerted officials about.
She encouraged students to be very curious about what they consume at parties.
“We are appealing to young people if they must go to parties or fetes please stay in groups, be alert and watch out for each other. To bandleaders, have a mechanism in place to desist from serving minors alcohol drinks on Carnival Monday and Tuesday.”
Education Minister Anthony Garcia said thousands of students from both primary and secondary schools are being empowered with information to increase their awareness of steps to stay safe and avoid situations that can threaten their safety.
Garcia said while the ministry encourages students to participate in Carnival activities, the three days after Carnival are normal school days.
“The three days after Carnival the Wednesday, Thursday and Friday it is important that our students and in fact our school community recognises the fact that these are normal school days and again we are taking the opportunity to ensure the message is carried through the schools, to the parents, teachers and all stakeholders so that Ash Wednesday will not become a day where we see empty classrooms.
“We know over the past few years our teachers turned out on Ash Wednesday but most importantly we have found out that on Ash Wednesday most of our students absent themselves.”
Garcia said it is a responsibility not only of the students to ensure they attend classes but the responsibility also rest on the shoulders of the parents to ensure they send their children to school.