MINISTER OF EDUCATION Anthony Garcia said earlier that while students and teachers have to operate in TT’s “violent society,” security measures in schools are in place and each school is safe.
He made the pronouncement hours after five people, four of whom were under 19, narrowly escaped death at the hands of gunmen who ambushed their car a stone’s throw away from Belmont schools on Wednesday.
The minister said the recent violence around schools should not be an indictment on the school system.
“The violence around the school is a problem with the society,” said Garcia in a phone conversation with Newsday. “We operate in a violent society. We try to protect our schools from the influences from those people who tend to be disruptive.
"As a result of that. we have protocols in place in all our schools that will deal with entry/exit discipline and all things that affect the school’s population. We want to ensure that our schools remain institutions where learning and teaching take place.”
He pointed out that the security protocols were not so extreme as to have metal detectors at schools.
“Our schools are not supposed to be jails. Our schools are supposed to be where learning and teaching take place. We have been working with the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) to make sure that they understand what we are trying to do in the schools and they can give to their children as much encouragement as possible.”
On Wednesday afternoon, just after 3 pm, gunmen intercepted a white Toyota Hilux not far from the Belmont Police Station on Belmont Circular Road, in which five people were travelling, including 38-year-old James Gordon, 18-year-old Calisha Khan, two girls aged 15 and 12, and a six-year-old boy. The gunmen riddled the pickup with bullets before escaping. While none of the occupants were seriously injured, one was said to have been shot in the buttocks, while another was grazed by a bullet. The children suffered cuts and bruises.
While that was happening in Belmont, teachers and students of La Horquetta South had to evacuate the school after a bomb threat. According to reports a person claiming to be a member of the “Muslim” gang called and threatened to blow up the school if the administration did not expel all “rasta” students. The person said the school was situated in “Muslim” territory.
Newsday was told police from the Explosive and Detection Unit, along with the Canine Unit, visited just after 11 pm and swept the school for explosive devices. Nothing was found, and the school returned to its regular schedule yesterday.
After the shooting in Belmont, police told Newsday all five victims were treated for injuries and are in a satisfactory condition. Police have also beefed up security in front of the school, and are integrating with school security and administration to ensure its security
Police advised teachers to report any suspicious activity to them.