Morvant/Laventille students say no to crime

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FOR PEACE: Students of the Morvant/Laventille Secondary School leave the school’s compound for the Stop the Violence Walk/Run in the Morvant community on Tuesday. – Photo by Roger Jacob

Morvant/Laventille Secondary School was buzzing with excitement as students eagerly awaited the start of its Stop the Violence Run/Walk on Tuesday. The event is an initiative by school administrators and the community that aims to encourage young people to say no to crime.

The school, located at the top of Pelican Street Extension, with a 360-degree bird’s-eye view of the surrounding area, offers a sea of greenery.

Students were out in their numbers, filling the school’s parking lot with loud, jovial voices and they did not seem bothered by the harsh early morning sun. Most dressed in ready-to-run wear.

Newsday spoke to Acting principal Carlan Telesford, who said the school is located in a crime hot spot and with the support of the community, students have been insulated from crime to an extent, but they are still affected by it, noting the murder of Joshua Andrews.

In 2018, 14-year-old Joshua Andrews was shot and burned alive when the PH taxi in which he was travelling home from school came under attack from gunmen. Two other students from the same school were also wounded during the attack.

At the time of the shooting, students attending the school said they heard the fatal shots that took Andrews’ life. They were left traumatised by the incident.

“The reality is that our students have not gone untouched by crime. In the killing that occurred at courts in December, one of the victims was a student’s parent. Crime is all around us, and we want our students to know there are other ways to resolve conflict.”

On December 17, four people were shot and killed at Courts Megastore on the Churchill Roosevelt Highway in Barataria. Reports say they went to the store’s carpark to get back money owed to them.

Telesford said members of the community are walking with the students so they know they are loved and looked after, and there is a community rallying behind them.

“We want them to know they can become productive citizens in society and there is more to life than crime.”

She said students were excited leading up to the event and made their own signs, saying administration only provided the material they needed.

Telesford said the event is also part of the school’s sports day, which will be held on March 14.

“There is excitement because competing houses get points for participating; who has the best signs and creative chants.”

Telesford ended the interview saying she hopes the event will bring awareness to the crime situation, not just in the community but in TT and she and her staff aim to provide a safe haven for students, a place they want to come every day.

“Once you reach the school gate, you leave everything outside, this is your safe place.”

Grace Arthur, a resident of the community that lives across from the school and whose family is the oldest neighbour of the school, says she works closely with the school staff to offer community support to the school.

Arthur, a community liaison, said the safety of the children and staff is the community’s main concern and the community is working to help maintain a healthy environment.

“This is about creating betterment for the students and the neighbour, the two go hand in hand.”

She said younger people in the community lend their support by speaking to students about the dangers of crime and gang violence.

“There isn’t any school fighting or any of that taking place anymore, when last have you heard or seen any negative things about the school? The young men in the neighbourhood said to them, no more fighting, no more bringing down the area, and the students agreed.”

She said when the school was first built, it also functioned as a community centre after school hours.

“Everything is about working together.”

Form four student Biranna Pompey, who came ready to run, told Newsday that the walk is important and necessary in the current crime climate. She said the students of Morvant/Laventille are saying no to crime and no more senseless killings in TT.

“Crime is overbearing, youths and young children are dying, why are we killing each other for what?”

Pompey said she was excited for the day’s activity and to be away from class for the day.

“I am so proud of my school for doing this. I just want the public to know Morvant/Laventille isn’t a bad school, there are talented students here. We are not the same students and school it feels like we are constantly being judged for old mistakes.”

Jalen Euin, another form four student, wants the country to know the community of Morvant Laventille has good people.

“Despite what you may hear or read, there are people trying here and yes, there is gun violence, but that’s not everybody; there are those trying to uplift the community.

He said he loves being a pupil at the school because there are a lot of caring teachers and he hopes to pursue a career in basketball.