Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 25th 2015 Contents VACANCY
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www.guardian.co.tt SUNDAY, JANUARY 25, 2015
with Clevon Raphael
Q: Mr Minister, I am in a vexed
mode this morning...
A: (Interrupting with a curious
expression at his St Clair office on
Thursday morning) Why are you
annoyed? You are usually a very pleasant
I am aware of that, and I also know
that you are one of the hardest working
(Another interruption) Thanks for the
You know what is bugging me, how
come you are unable to get a firm grip
on the high level of violence at some of
the nation s schools? You must admit
that is a very debilitating factor in the
I want to disagree with you. We have
steadied the ship as far as that is con-
cerned, and we are moving expeditiously
to reduce the matter of dysfunctional
behaviour by the students.
Yeah, but still we keep hearing and see-
ing this type of behaviour on social
(Speaking in a soft tone brought on by
the flu) We have a quarter million students
in schools; 126,000 of these in primary
schools; and we have close to 36,000 in
early childhood education centres, and the
amount of suspensions we have had the
last couple of years has been decreasing.
About two years ago, Cabinet passed a
note to increase the amount of personnel
in the Student Support Services division...
This division deals primarily with...?
Primarily, the guidance counsellors,
school social workers, clinical and behav-
ioural and educational psychologists.
All the secondary schools have guidance
counsellors. We have close to 100 school
social workers, educational psychologists,
and thousands of teachers have been
trained in ADR (Alternative Dispute Res-
olution) and mediation. The incidence
really is less than one per cent of the school
population, and we have put a number of
programmes and policies in place.
I do not want to break your trend of
thought, but I am sure you have seen
these children, girls in particular, fighting
among themselves with their classmates
taking in the sordid action...
This is a reflection of the society that
we live in. The schools need to do a certain
part, then the parenting aspects, the soci-
etal aspect, and the community aspect.
Who has to take the major part of the
blame for the unhealthy conduct of these
(Quickly) The parents. They have a major
responsibility in the disciplining of their
children and, unfortunately, we have a lot
of students in schools with absent parents
and who are being held by their grand-
parents and, sometimes, even the grand-
parents are absent.
It is also a matter of upbringing...the
values and morals that they established
from their homes. You will scarcely find
that a school student coming from a home
that is well-guided by both parents exhibit-
ing this type of behaviour.
You may have the abhorrent ones, but
then the community has a
responsibility...you see the teachers are
the "parents" in schools.
From your experience as Minister of
Education, do you find this behaviour is
restricted to one segment of the schools
No, I won t stigmatise that at all. You
have dysfunctional behaviour from all sort
You are being politically correct, Dr
Gopeesingh, with that response.
Well, it is not a matter of politics, it is
a reality that you have dysfunctional stu-
dents existing across the board, not in the
lower socio-economic alone, (but) in the
middle income group; it is also in the
upper groups as well. I am getting reports
across the board from schools in the 18
And with the advent of the social media
they are able to film and video certain
activities. Not that these were not hap-
pening previously. They are brought to
our attention and very quickly we deal
with them, and we have the teachers being
trained to identify the dysfunctional stu-
In addition to that, the SSS (Student
Support Services) has established learning
enhancement centres, so where these stu-
dents have been suspended they now move
to these areas and are taken by the division
and counselled with their parents.
Just one per cent of the school population is involved
in anti-social behaviour, says Education Minister Dr Tim
Putting the blame on the parents of dysfunctional students,
Gopeesingh said school violence was found not only among
children from the lower socio-economic strata but from all
sections of society.
Stressing that the ministry has done remarkably well
over the last four years, Gopeesingh, MP for Caroni East,
feels that children with both parents at home were not
as affected as those students with absentee parents.
Continues on Page A9
on the decline Education Minister
Dr Tim Gopeesingh
All the secondary schools
have guidance counsellors.
We have close to 100
school social workers,
educational psychologists, and
thousands of teachers have
been trained in ADR (Alternative
Dispute Resolution) and
mediation. The incidence really
is less than one per cent of the
school population, and
we have put a number
of programmes and
policies in place.
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