Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : October 7th 2014 Contents A9
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The escalation of child deaths
since the start of the year---34
within the period January 1 and
June 23---has been described as
alarming and has since prompted
the Ministry of Gender, Youth and
Child Development to strengthen
its collaboration with the Ministry
of Education to educate children
about preventative measures to
ensure their safety.
This was revealed yesterday by
Gender, Youth and Child Develop-
ment Minister Clifton De Coteau,
who said in many instances "it is
a clear case of parental and child
Delivering the feature address on
the second day of the first annual
National Children s Forum at the
Hilton Trinidad, St Ann s, yesterday,
De Coteau urged parents, guardians
and caretakers to be more vigilant.
Speaking with reporters later on,
he said the statistics were startling
and was a cause for concern.
He added: "We assume those little
kids know because they are sensible.
Sometimes, you see those little chil-
dren walking to parlors unsupervised
and when something happens, you
say if I had acted differently. Clearly,
we have to be more vigilant and
focused on the children at all times."
Adding that they did not have
the power to penalise parents who
neglect their children, the minister
said: "We can be more vigilant."
He said changes were made to
the Children s Act which was before
the Parliament s review committee
and he hoped that crucial piece of
legislation would be passed soon.
Analysing the frequency of child
deaths, De Coteau said it ranged
between two and six a month
between January and May 2 this
year, with 13 deaths occurring in the
first 22 days of June, which repre-
sented 37 per cent of the total child
deaths recorded for the year thus
far.The data presented revealed that
50 per cent of child deaths to date
have occurred as the result of phys-
ical violence and these were all clas-
sified as murder, with 32 per cent
deemed to be as a result of neglect
and accidents and suicide accounted
for 12 per cent and six per cent
In the age range 12 to 18, acts of
violence were the most frequent
cause of death, while in the zero to
three and four to seven age groups,
neglect was identified as the major
The figures revealed that the 12
to 18, and zero to three years age
groups, accounted for the highest
number of deaths.
Fifty-six per cent of child deaths
occurred in the 12 to 18-year age
group, while the zero to three-year
age group accounted for 32 per cent
of children s deaths for the period
January to June 22, this year.
Child deaths were highest in the
zero to three years age group, which
recorded 32 per cent, and the 12 to
18 years age group recorded 56 per
Neglect was the predominant
apparent cause of deaths for the
zero to three age range and this was
mirrored in the four to seven years
The minister said: "It appears
that the developmental stage of this
age range renders it a vulnerable
group and therefore apparent neg-
lect, whether by parents or carers,
increases the risk of death.
"Thus, I call on our parents and
guardians to supervise our children
and look out for them and teach
them the dangers of actions that
may harm them."
Referring to the three-day forum
which began on Friday, De Coteau
said it provided an opportunity for
the nation s youth to air their views,
concerns and recommendations,
which will be taken into account
as the ministry developed the
National Child Policy.
Commenting on the death of
nine-year-old Abeomi Jeremiah on
Friday night, De Coteau said it was
a tragic and unfortunate situation.
Unwilling to say much more as
it remained under investigation, he
said social workers had been dis-
patched to counsel the family as
part of the ministry s approach to
determine what really happened
and what had perpetuated the
The investigation into the operations
of the St Michael s School for Boys,
Diego Martin, is continuing.
Asked to provide an update on the
status of the investigation, Minister of
Gender, Youth and Child Development,
Clifton De Coteau said they were awaiting
the findings of the investigation which
began more than three months ago.
The investigation was launched after
a former resident met with officers to
provide a statement confirming allega-
tions of physical and sexual abuse, as
well as general neglect by staff members
at the institution.
More than 28 people, including past
and present employees, temporary and
permanent officers, and some of the
boys resident at the facility have been
Speaking with reporters at the National
Children s Forum at the Hilton Trinidad
yesterday, De Coteau said, "This has
been going on for time immemorial and
the complaints have been made.
"In some cases, the complaints were
swept under the carpet but we have
taken a very proactive stance that we
are going to investigate these things."
Revealing that there was a bill before
the parliamentary review committee,
which would result in the operations of
50 such residences and institutions being
revised, De Coteau said during recent
efforts to standardise those places they
were presented with a $250,000 one-
off grant to improve the physical premises
and hire additional staff.
He said: "For years, we have had peo-
ple working at these places without the
adequate skills and not bringing them-
selves up to where we need them to be."
The 19-year-old teenager, of Port-
of-Spain, who spent one year at St
Michael s confirmed that during his stay
he was deprived of a secondary school
education, sexually abused by a female
staff member, beaten by a male staff
member, cursed and threatened, wit-
nessed staff members using marijuana
and denied the chance to learn a trade
by other members of staff, who deemed
him a trouble-maker.
Hargreaves, 14, of Cascade, died on
April 8 after hitting his head on the con-
crete floor of his dormitory during an
attempt to drop kick another child.
He had been sent to the school by the
During the inquiry into Hargreaves
death by a three-member team set up
by the ministry, issues of sexual impro-
priety, physical abuse, neglect, theft and
gross misconduct were highlighted.
St Michael's probe still ongoing
Former junior national security min-
ister Subhas Panday was expected to
have heart-bypass surgery last evening
at St Clair Medical Hospital after being
hospitalised last week with chest pains.
Panday, who spoke briefly yesterday
in a telephone interview from his bed
at the hospital, said he was feeling strong
and was upbeat going into the surgery.
"I am feeling good. I am going down
the road (strong)," Panday said.
Panday, an attorney, fell ill last week
while appearing before High Court judge
Gillian Lucky in the San Fernando High
Court. Panday, the younger brother of
former prime minister Basdeo Panday,
began complaining of chest pains.
He was admitted to the Eric Williams
Medical Sciences Complex last week
Monday and his daughter Anusha Pan-
day has been keeping a close watch on
him since then.
Panday said he did a number of tests
last week and the decision to do the
bypass was a sudden one.
"It is not emergency, but the doctors
said I have to so it as quickly as possible,
so we decided to do it now. They have
cleared me for the surgery.
"I have clogged arteries."
He was transfered on Sunday.
"I am not afraid at all. I am going
into surgery at 4.30 pm. It should be
about four hours," Panday said.
Subhas for bypass surgery
Rise in child deaths
'Parents must be more vigilant'
Minister of Gender, Youth and Child Development Clifton De Coteau chats with the presenters of yesterday's
National Children's Forum. From left are Suana Sookdeo, Jared Seemungal, Adana Williams, Tshai-Ann Lopez,
Kaela King-James and Jewel Antoine. PHOTO: SHIRLEY BAHADUR
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