As a start, Garcia revealed that 24 students — identified as ring leaders in the delinquency that has plagued the school — are to be sent home with immediate effect.
Following a return visit to the school yesterday, this time along with Minister of National Security Edmund Dillon, Garcia told reporters, “I have taken a decision, a definite decision, that I will not tolerate indiscipline and violence in our schools. My mantra is no school indiscipline, no violence in schools.” Dillon also said the country may have to consider boot camps for delinquent students as Garcia said he will be looking at ways in which the students who are removed from the school could be reintegrated into the system.
Garcia returned to the school yesterday following his presence there last Friday in response to the disclosure that some students, supported by criminal elements, were planning to stage a gun attack and even kill a teacher and other students.
The Minister was in Tobago until Monday evening where he hosted the final sessions of the national consultation on education.
In making the visit to the central school again yesterday, the Minister wanted to ensure the suggested ramping up of security was in place and working, and he also wanted to continue discussions with the Principal, teachers and other personnel on the way forward.
“The situation at the school is real and not exaggerated,” he told Newsday.
“I am the Minister of Education and the Education Act, which governs activities of the Ministry, gives me responsibility for the entire education system,” Garcia told a media briefing shortly after addressing both teaching staff and students at a special school assembly on the school’s compound in Helen Street, Chaguanas.
“But more than that, the Minister is the only person who has the authority to take certain action against errant students.” “The principal has identified 24 students whose behaviour is the cause of a lot of the problems that we are having in this school.
Many of those 24 students have criminal records. Many of them have pending matters before the courts. Many of those students have been engaged in attacking other students and they have been engaged in bullying.” 24 STUDENTS REMOVED “I have taken the decision, in consultation with my colleagues, that with immediate effect, these students will be removed from the Chaguanas North Secondary School,” he said.
“I want to give the national community the assurance that the 24 students, who we will be removed with immediate effect from this school, we will not leave them to pasture,” he said.
“We are going to have certain interventions. We are going to do certain assessments, and we are going to do whatever is possible so that we can have them rehabilitated in the school system, perhaps in the not too distant future, but we will leave no stone unturned to ensure that our school is safe.” Asked whether the students were all from one particular class or form, he responded that they were scattered throughout the school’s population though he could not say whether any females were among the 24 students.
The Minister also pointed out that police patrols would continue at the school as a number of other problems were identified, including the dilapidated condition of the school’s wall and the inordinate amount of acting positions among staff members. Garcia noted that the size of the Chaguanas North Secondary compound — some 11 acres — pose serious difficulties in ensuring adequate patrols.
“We will have constant and consistent police patrols, we want to ensure the school’s compound is safe...that is our immediate objective,” he added.
“In speaking with members of staff and the Principal, we have identified certain infrastructural deficiencies and we are going to make sure these deficiencies are remedied” BOOT CAMP RETURN? Garcia said he will be discussing the issue of the many acting appointments at the school with the Teachers Service Commission today as this could be related to persons not taking decisive action on school issues.
The Minister revealed, “The principal is acting, the vice principal is acting, there are nine deans on staff and only one has been appointed...the other eight are acting. There are seven heads of department, only three have been appointed...
four are acting. At every level of the school system, most of the persons are holding acting appointments.” Minister Dillon who also addressed the media briefing, suggested that the national population may have to consider “boot camps” as a means of dealing with delinquent students.
He also observed that the removal of corporal punishment may have been a contributing factor to the high level of indiscipline.
“This is a problem that didn’t happen overnight,” Dillon said.
“It has been festering for some time and from a national security perspective, we may have to consider how do we treat with them.
“Do we treat with them in the sense, do we introduce boot camp into our system? These are questions the national community need to look at.” “We have done away with corporal punishment in our school system to a large extent, that may be a source of our concern right now, but we are here to ensure the safety and security of the students who come to school to learn and the teachers who come to school to teach,” he added.
“We as a society must take stock because the future of our country, the future of our generation lies in the education of our students,” Dillon added.