The management of the Scarborough Port Mall has ban students from entering it unless they are accompanied by a parent.
Tobago education stakeholders have applauded the decision.
On Tuesday, the mall, on Milford Road, Scarborough, issued a public notice titled: Student Ban In Effect.
It said, “Regrettably, we wish to inform the public that any children or student not accompanied by a parent or guardian will not be allowed on the Port Mall premises, effective November 28, 2022.”
The notice gave no further details, but Newsday understands the mall’s management has been very concerned about the high levels of indiscipline in the behaviour of many students on the premises.
Acting schools supervisor III in the THA Division of Education, Research and Technology Sherra Carrington-James welcomed the move.
“I think it is a positive step and move,” she told Newsday. “The discipline of our students in and out of school has been of great concern, not just to the secretary (Zorisha Hackett) and the administration, but certainly to the wider public.”
Carrington-James added, “It reinforces for us what essentially has been the mantra across the world. It takes a village to raise a child, and this cannot be done by any single agency. It involves all stakeholders. So quite frankly, it is a move that we applaud.”
She said the issue also raises the question of parental jurisdiction
“When a child leaves his or her school, even in school uniform, where they are so branded and recognisable, who, in essence, is going to be responsible for that child? Where does the influence of the parent start and end?
“Because if my child is very clear that in this home, when you leave school, you go to football training – constructive engagement. You go to class – constructive engagement. You get on the bus and you come home, because at home is where we debrief and ensure that there (are) family values.
"Where does the influence of the particular parent begin and end? That is the greater question I feel we have to ask.
“Parental influence says in this family, our child must leave school and go to constructive engagement, not hang in the Port Mall. So in a nutshell, we fully endorse it.”
Carrington-James said the division was very focused on ensuring students practise values that would contribute to a constructive society. Productive engagement, she added, is a part of that.
Carrington-James said she hopes other agencies will follow the lead of the Port Mall in clamping down on student indiscipline.
“There may be other agencies that we would hope over time will say, 'Yes, we are in full support of this. You are not in our space, except we see that endorsement from the parent that says we are coming to do some shopping.' So it is a move to be applauded.”
Education Secretary Zorisha Hackett said she is not surprised by the move.
“There have always been challenges in dealing with the students at the mall. But that’s no surprise. And it’s not the first ban. But I endorse the move.
TTUTA Tobago officer Bradon Roberts said he does not like to comment on “individual issues” involving students. But he said the Port Mall is “well within its rights to try to manage the conduct of students in their establishment.
“If the manner in which they are operating is inconveniencing other persons, I understand.”
Roberts contends the indiscipline being displayed by some students is part of a broader societal problem, “especially coming out of the pandemic.”
He added, “If we don’t treat with the societal problems, a lot of these other things will prop up. So is Port Mall today, another thing another day.
"We have violence within the schools and the general public. If we continue to put our heads in the sand and hope that things will be okay, we will continue to have problems in various sectors.
“The Port Mall is taking a stand to manage the environment. But we have societal problems and if we don’t treat with those, we would have other establishments having issues.”
So Roberts believes, “We need a lot of reform to the things we are doing in Tobago and the wider Trinidad and Tobago, but I am not seeing the political will.”
Acting National Parent-Teacher Association president (Tobago region) Joseph Lindow said parents also support the ban.
“Most of the parents are in agreement with the decision, because from what I saw, parents were saying that on evenings there are too many students lingering, using obscene language and displaying disorderly behaviour. When school is over, let them go to their various homes,” he told Newsday.
“So the NPTA will support the ban, temporarily or otherwise, to regain control of the behaviour. If they go to the mall genuinely to purchase something, fine. But to lime after school – we do not support that behaviour.
“The NPTA is about discipline, whether it is at school or otherwise. Once you are in your uniform, you must conduct yourself in a certain way.”