Parents of children who attend classes at South East Port of Spain Secondary School (SEPoS) are calling on the Education Ministry to have the school relocated from Nelson Street which has become a zone for major gang violence.
On November 27, a stray bullet struck the walls of a classroom where teaching was in session. A parent of the school, who asked not to be identified, told Newsday that last Friday, out of a teaching strength of 75, 50 teachers refused to attend school following the November 27 incident.
Both the police and ministry have said no one was injured by the stray bullet, but the parent insisted that a teacher was grazed by a bullet and had to seek medical treatment. The bullet struck a wall above a student's head and fragments of concrete fell on to his head.
Following the shooting, a number of stakeholder meetings were held with the principal, teachers, ministry officials, the school's parent teacher association, the police and representatives of the TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA).
The parent said that in addition to gang violence in areas surrounding the school, SEPoS itself is in a state of disrepair with missing windows, dilapidated classrooms and an absence of a muster point.
The parent is suggesting that inverted ventilation bricks be installed so that it could deflect stray bullets and prevent them from entering classrooms while still allowing for air to circulate. The ideal thing though would be for the school to be relocated.
The November 27 incident was not an isolated one, the parent said, adding that bullet holes are visible at the security booth in the school.
She said both teachers and students risk their lives by merely attending classes at SEPoS and hearing gunshots during class hours can be traumatic. She said that the PTA had requested the school be moved to temporary locations for exams, but this was denied and instead, a constant police presence outside the school before and after school hours was provided. But this did not stop a stray bullet hitting the walls of a classroom.
A release from the Ministry last week said that 11 SEPoS teachers agreed to administer exams for students of forms Four to Six from December 5 to 13. An official from the ministry confirmed that exams took place last Thursday and Friday at the school but refused to state how much teachers showed up to work.
TTUTA president Antonia De Freitas said teachers who refused to work at SEPoS for safety reasons have requested a meeting between the union and the ministry. She said at least 75 percent of staff have refused to work. "They want the ministry to identify a clear plan for how to deal with the dangers of the area," De Freitas said.