Education Minister Anthony Garcia says he is troubled by the increase in indiscipline and violence involving secondary school students this year.
He is also alarmed that more girls are involved in these fights.
Garcia said the Ministry is currently in talks with the National Energy Skills Centre (NESC) with the intention of enrolling “troubled” students in a modified version of the NESC’s Military-oriented Youth Programme of Apprenticeship and Re-Orientation Training (MYPART).
He said those students will be taken out of school for a period and will be provided with a different type of education, training and intervention, in an effort of rehabilitate them.
MYPART is a three-year live-in programme which acts as a form of social intervention and involves military and vocational training.
He said the Ministry would not want to take students out of school for three years, so this is why it is in discussions with NESC for a modified version of the programme.
“We are looking at approximately three terms. Secondly, there is an age limit with respect to the MYPART programme, which is 16 and over, and in our case we would want to enrol students much younger than 16, because our research has shown that the majority of students who are giving trouble in our schools now reside in Form Two and Three classes . We don’t find many students in the Form Four and Five classes giving that type of problems,” he said.
Over the last few weeks videos of students fighting on the roadway and in school have been circulating on Facebook.
Last week, a student of a school in San Juan was filmed using a brick to smash the windscreen of a car belonging to a teacher of the school.
Describing the latter incident as very serious, Garcia warned that the Ministry will not be tolerating this type of unruly, violent behaviour.
He said last year the Ministry was able to make a dent in school violence and indiscipline.
According to data collected, he said incidents were down to one per cent.
He said since the beginning of the new school term in January these incidents have increased.
“We are very concerned over what we have been seeing. We’ve had reports from principals and teachers and we have been able to view on social media some reports of indiscipline and violence in our schools. Most of these incidents occur outside of schools and involve female students. When we see street brawls we’ll notice that those brawls are being engaged in by our female students,” Garcia said.
“We are of the firm in the view that this has to be stamped out and we are not going to rest peacefully unless we can be assured that a school is a place of safety, a place where teachers and students could reside in relative calm and peace,” he said.
Garcia reads riot act
Garcia said if some students are hell-bent on creating havoc in schools the Ministry will “deal with them and deal with them effectively”.
“I understand that every child has a right to an education and we recognise that and respect that but all of our children also have a right to an education and if one or two children want to disrupt or take away that right from 700 approximately students in a particular school, then those one or two students must be dealt with,” he said.
“And we are going to put our foot down forcefully. In some cases we will have to ensure some of those students are removed from the school system until they show that they are ready to return to the school system and obey the rules of the school,” he stated.
He said the Ministry will also be increasing the number of Learning Enhancement Centres (LECs) to include two major centres, in North and South Trinidad.
The LECs are centres where students who have been suspended can receive professional advice and assistance, instead of being left to roam the streets during their suspension period, he said.
“In other districts we will have smaller LECs for students who have been displaying less troubling problems. What we have found that have been creeping into the school system is a level of indiscipline that we cannot tolerate,” he added.