Saturday Express Editorial

Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly, unavailable on Thursday to journalists reporting news of yet more incidents of violence involving schoolchildren in uniform, chose her party’s public meeting in Barataria to deliver scripted comfort to the nation.

To do so, the minister quoted a February 2023 survey, presumably conducted by public servants in her ministry, looking at indiscipline in schools from April 2022—when schools reopened fully post-lockdowns—up to, again presumably, February of this year. From that survey—unnamed and unpublished—she revealed that out of 200,000 or so pupils in the school system, only 142 had been suspended three or more times.

Those errant pupils were from 47 schools out of 819. Six of those 47 schools are primary and 41 are secondary, she said. While she delivered a brief, bullet-point analysis of how the pandemic lockdown of schools contributed to the deterioration in behaviour of children and parents, it is uncertain whether that was part of the same survey she mentioned.

The objective of Dr Gadsby-Dolly’s address was twofold. She set out to account for the annual $5 billion public expenditure by her ministry, and to counter public outrage at the problem of school violence believed to be pervasive, longstanding, getting worse, and is uninterrupted by the various initiatives and best intentions of the ministry she leads.

The comfort she attempted to communicate was interrupted not only by the tassa-accompanied arrival of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during her presentation, but also by the fact that the minister chose to speak where she could not have been interrogated. What is this survey of which she speaks, and why has it not been made public? What else does the survey say? How many pupils are first-time and second-time offenders in the 819 schools, and are there increasing numbers of violent incidents reported by schools now than before?

Are the pupils in the most recent videos among those 147 she mentioned? If not, are they among the first- and second-time offenders? If that is also not so, are they all new applicants for the survey sample?

In seeking to bring some hope to the public, the minister sought instead to minimise a problem that the public knows, intuitively, to be a national one. Violence expressed by schoolchildren is a subset of youth violence—a visibly significant social problem. In turn, the problem of youth violence is a subset of violence more generally in the society. Saying that a survey said 0.0007 per cent of pupils have been suspended three or more times does not match the public’s knowledge of indiscipline and violence in schools, their experience of youth violence, and the widespread public fear and loathing of wanton criminality.

We agree with the minister that the situation demands conflict resolution and mediation strategies, and that pupils are “unsettled” upon their return to physical schooling after 24 months of solely online interaction. We sympathise with her effort to offer some relief to the society whose legs are collectively buckling under the weight of violent misconduct. We would suggest that hope must reside in reality, and that addressing a problem begins with not minimising it.


No-one could disagree with the Prime Minister’s assertion that the dysfunction within the criminal justice system is the result of a “deep failing across the board”. To that we would add, over many political and judicial administrations.

I’ll say from the outset that this column is not a diatribe against religion. Still, at some point, a line must be drawn to separate faith and action. My various articles in the past years that focus on LGBTQ equality as a human rights issue have usually touched on the all-too-frequent counter-argument against this human rights issue, that “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”, and “That is why God burned down Sodom and Gomorrah”.

“If this country cannot call to order its prime minister, its cabinet and its political party, to say we are not accepting that, God help us. The people we hire ought not to get bigger than those who hire them. The Govern­ment is hired by the people” (fired housing minister Dr Keith Rowley, Hansard, Page 249, October 19, 2009).

Although the arrest warrant issued on Russian President Vladimir Putin by the International Criminal Court last week was welcome, there was a certain puzzlement about the actual crime he is being charged with.

This is a man who launched an unprovoked invasion of a neighbouring country, Ukraine. He declares that the country should not even exist, and denies that there is a valid Ukrainian identity. Those Ukrainians who believe they are not Russians are “Nazis” who must be “re-educated” or destroyed. That alone qualifies Putin for a charge of genocide.

Let us consider the principal’s 20 per cent selection. Is it free and fair? Should a pupil enter a secon­dary school based on their religion alone? Should pupils enter secondary school based on one person’s choice?

The ongoing controversy surrounding the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is a matter of great concern for the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago, and it demands urgent attention and resolution. At the heart of this issue is the need for the country to have a strong and independent legal system where justice is administered fairly and without fear or favour.