School safety crisis

Police and army officers secure the scene where a boy, 11, was shot death in a car on Laventille Road on Thursday. - Angelo Marcelle
Police and army officers secure the scene where a boy, 11, was shot death in a car on Laventille Road on Thursday. - Angelo Marcelle

A CHILD SHOULD be safe at school. And yet these sanctuaries have come under increased attack this week with two incidents that demand an urgent response.

On Thursday, a boy who had just been picked up from class was shot dead in a car on Laventille Road.

This followed what occurred on Tuesday when a man was killed just outside the Gloster Lodge Moravian Primary School, a stone’s throw from Belmont Circular Road.

These incidents, sickening and shocking as they are, go some way to heighten the sense that we are in the throes of a school safety crisis. The crisis is twofold: one of morality and one of security.

Clearly no place is sacred in this country; criminals have no sense of decency. That general truth is expressed by the fact that young students are being targeted or else put at risk on or near to schools and elsewhere.

Last May, students of Providence Girls’ Catholic School and Belmont Secondary School were left traumatised after a shooting victim ran through the area.

That same month, a man was killed outside the Hokett Baptist Primary School in Morvant. Another man was murdered near to the Munroe Road Hindu Primary School.

In December, an armed bandit was intercepted by a guard at the Carapichaima Anglican Primary School. This individual was shot in a classroom. Luckily, this was after school hours.

But go back far enough and you will find incidents when students were not lucky to have narrowly escaped harm. Many still remember, for instance, the killing of two students of the Success Laventille Secondary School while in uniform in 2016.

Where minors are not being targeted, they are being made into mere collateral damage. This was evident in a recent incident at a fast-food restaurant in Gasparillo, in which individuals had absolutely no concern for the danger they placed a nearby child in.

Crime can happen anywhere. What occurs outside a school gate might be difficult to regulate. However, there is a specific duty on the State to keep these premises and their adjoining communities safe.

At the very least, MPs should use next week’s debate of a private members’ motion to instil confidence that this specific duty will be treated with the highest priority.

The Opposition, which has tabled the motion under the heading of Mismanagement of the Education System, should resist the temptation to gallery.

Meanwhile, the Government should use the debate to state what it will do to address school safety. It should also signal a more conciliatory approach on crime in light of the ill-fated crime talks.

That approach was sadly not evident in this week’s parliamentary motions to appoint police top brass. For the sake of our children, this must change.


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