By Lara Pickford-Gordon
Children are stressed and angry, and indiscipline reflects what is happening in the wider society, said Professor Dennis Conrad, director of the Student Support Services Division of the Education Ministry.
The Ministry hosted a media briefing last Tuesday at its St Vincent Street head office to talk about additional measures to deal with student indiscipline and violence. There have been reports in the media and videos circulated on social media showing fights and other inappropriate conduct.
“There’s no doubt that in Trinidad and Tobago and the world generally we are increasingly stressed. Our approach to these stresses is particularly either to be implosive—to hurt ourselves or to bring out that aggression in many different forms of bullying,” said Professor Conrad.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia said the ministry has seen a level of indiscipline “creeping into the school system” which cannot be tolerated.
“Just as we are committed to ensure our teachers and schools provide quality education for our students we have to ensure our school system deals with indiscipline in such a way [that] our students will not want to go that way again.”
The ministry has received reports from principals, teachers and viewed footage on social media of violence and indiscipline in schools. Many incidents happened outside of schools.
Garcia said it was troubling that most “street brawls” involved female students and equally alarming was to see parents intervening. There were sporadic reports of fights last term and the students were called in, but Garcia said this term there were “too many”.
In addition to the current measures e.g. schools developing discipline plans and the revised National School Code of Conduct, the Education Ministry will be establishing two Learning Enhancement Centres (LECs) in the north and south for students on extended suspension. Students will be assessed at the centres.
“Based on those assessments decisions can be made as to reintegration into the specific school, transfer to other schools and in some cases recommendations for alternative placement,” Chief Executive Officer at the Ministry Harilal Seecharan said.
Garcia hoped to have both LECs up and functioning as soon as possible, “at least after Carnival”. These will be staffed with “professionals”—psychologists, and guidance officers.
Another intervention is a partnership with the National Energy Skills Centre’s MYPART (Military-Led Youth Programme of Apprenticeship and Reorientation Training) programme. The three-year residential programme provides military and vocational training.
“We are looking at a modified approach to this system,” Garcia said because students cannot be out of the system for three years. MYPART has an age limit 16 years and older however, the children referred by the ministry would be “much younger”.
Garcia said, “Our research has shown that the majority of students who are giving trouble in our schools reside in Forms Three and Two classes”.