Siparia West Secondary PTA president: The school is a case of general neglect

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

FACT FINDING: In this file photo police officers leave the Siparia West Secondary school after interviewing students bullied, beaten and taxed by others. Photo by Anil Rampersad

The NGO Concerned Parents Movement of TT (CPMTT) led by Clarence Mendoza is preparing to host a workshop in an attempt to curb incidences of violence in schools.

It is set to begin by the end of May to hear from students, parents, and other stakeholders.

On Friday, Mendoza told Newsday that the organisation is in the process of writing several government ministries — Education, National Security and Youth Development and National Service— to come on board in piloting the project.

“This will be a national initiative because we want to hear from each educational district. We must get out there and do something,” he said.

“We are concerned about the level of violence, especially among the female students. We have grown accustomed to the males fighting, and we want to know the females are now fighting. We need to hear directly from the youths and why they are behaving the way they do. Then we need to put the necessary measures in place.”

Mendoza said the police alone cannot deal with delinquents. He charged that nowadays, most children are raising themselves as parents are at work or elsewhere.

On parents intervening in brawls with students, he urged them not to take the law into their own hands and instead referred matters to the police.

Several reports of school fights nationwide have occurred in the past few weeks.

Several government ministers, including the Prime Minister and Education Minister have called on parents to do their part, saying they have a critical role to play in shaping children’s minds.

On Wednesday night, a Facebook post by National Security Minister Fitzgerald Hinds said parents are the first responders and the best crime stoppers.

The post was accompanied by a viral 29-second video that shows students in uniform fighting.

The post said a student was killed in a country in the region in a “similar episode” of bad/criminal behaviour.

“It seems that our bad behavior will not stop until we get a similar outcome. Imagine students of different schools in competition for which school could generate the most fights. Sadly, this is the unfortunate result of our collective poor socialisation of our youth,” the post said.

“Bear in mind that their behaviours are also seriously influenced by the events occurring way outside of their homes and their country, via social media. Meanwhile, the girls at SAGS, are in stiff competition to see which school wins the most scholarships.”

Hinds added that they demonstrate that in the midst of the madness, bacchanal and confusion that some seem to love and revel in.

There are others, he said, who are holding up the ideals and meeting the expectations of what we are supposed to be.

“Most of all, what we have the potential to become. The law enforcement platform of National Security will do our part, but parents, teachers, and others in the society must all join in, to do theirs.”

Over the past few years, there have been several videos of Siparia West Secondary School (SWSS) students fighting.

SWSS PTA president Clive Auguste told Newsday that the school has been suffering from a “general case of neglect” from the Education Ministry and, to a lesser degree, from administrative staffers.

“The situation is not getting better. Some teachers are trying their best. The majority of the staff members are afraid of the students. There are children in the schools who are before the court. The fights are from the same group of students over and over,” Auguste said.

He recalled that it took over a year to get SWSS’s phone working.

Auguste added, “Shouldn’t a couple of cameras be installed in the school? That is common sense. The funding from the ministry is limited in this school.”

“We have a new acting principal, and we will meet with her on Monday to see if we can put up a camera or two. The school has two safety officers, and one is on leave. We have hardworking deans. But there is so much we can do. The school can turn around as many good people are coming out of Siparia West and East. “

He recalled an incident where a woman saw her son being bullied on the roadside, and she intervened.

“The students were taxing and clouting him. She was sitting in a car and saw it. I am not condoning violence. But imagine seeing that happen to your child,” Auguste said.

On Friday, the Education Ministry held a professional day workshop for SWSS staffers and as such, there was no school for students.

Newsday learnt the workshop dealt with issues relating to learning disabilities, classroom management, duty of care, restorative justice and school supervision.

National Parent Teachers Association (NPTA) president Kevin David also weighed in on school violence, saying they have several programmes to keep students on the correct part. One such programme is a Career Day set for next week at Tranquility Secondary School.

David called on parents to be more involved with PTAs.

“We need the full involvement of parents at the PTA level, forming a stronger partnership.”

Calls and messages to TT Unified Teachers Association (TTUTA) president Martin Lum Kin went unanswered.