Gopeesingh: Gov’t wholly to blame for current crisis of violence in schools

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Gopeesingh: Gov’t wholly to blame for current crisis of violence in schools

Former Education Minister, Dr Tim Gopeesingh has slammed the current Minister, Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly for her latest response to the ongoing scourge of school violence.

In a statement released on Wednesday afternoon, Gopeesingh said on a weekly basis, the nation is subjected to alarming, disturbing social media videos of school children engaging in brutal fights and confrontations on and off school compounds. Not even teachers and principals are spared in these violent outbursts.

Yet, he said, the Education Minister continues to bewilderingly deflect and deny this tragic, dangerous state of affairs, which is now a veritable national crisis.

Gopeesingh pointed out that last week, she quoted a dubious, unpublished survey and claimed that out of 891 schools, only 47 schools reported students who were suspended three or more times since the return to in-person teaching in 2022.

“Yet, these figures contradict the Minister’s own statistics presented in June 2022, when she admitted to 1318 student suspensions for that school term. (…/minister-says-more-than-1300…) ”

He said: “Minister Gadsby-Dolly therefore owes the country an explanation as to why she would engage in such a disingenuous, dangerous, questionable attempt to hoodwink the population on this critical issue.
Is it that she’s trying to hide the fact that the Rowley Government must be wholly blamed for the current crisis of violence and indiscipline in our nation’s schools?”

“For it is indeed an undeniable fact that from 2010-2015, under my tenure as Minister of Education in the People’s Partnership Government, led by then Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, we implemented many policies to strategically—and successfully— tackle violence and indiscipline in our nation’s schools at every possible level.”

“Yet, upon assuming Government, Rowley and then Education Minister Anthony Garcia maliciously and vindictively disbanded most, if not all, of our successful intervention policies, simply because it was a PP Government’s initiative.”

Gopeesingh said playing such vicious politics with the education sector led to a disturbing, significant rise in the incidence of school violence post 2015. This is reflected in the statistics presented by Minister Gadsby-Dolly at a Cabinet briefing on June 9, 2022.

“There, she noted that student suspensions for the infractions of assault, assault with weapons, bullying, extortion and fighting with and without weapons were: 2015 – 1,785; 2016 – 2,053; 2017 – 2,486; 2019 – 2,529; 2022 – 1,318 (amid online schooling at homes during the pandemic lockdown from 2020-2021).”

“These unacceptably high levels of indiscipline and school violence in Trinidad and Tobago is now seriously affecting the national psyche. There are over a quarter million students in our schools, which translates to more than one million citizens of T&T being seriously affected.”

Gopeesingh said, parents, teachers, and students alike live in a state of constant anxiety, fear and worry over the safety and protection of their children in our nation’s schools, and outside school hours.

He said this is nothing short of a national crisis, which demands serious, effective action on the part of the Education Ministry and Government. Unfortunately, the Rowley administration continues to play dangerous politics, and is blatantly refusing to implement any effective, strategic policy or program to reduce this worsening crisis.

“It is not too late for the Rowley Government and Education Minister to adopt a proactive approach to attacking the national crisis that is now school violence.
Our country, already on the brink of becoming a failed state due to unprecedented runaway crime and violence, poverty and unemployment, simply cannot afford to also fail our education system, and most importantly our children, in this manner. Our nation’s very future survival is at stake,” said Gopeesingh.