Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : March 18th 2016 Contents A15
Friday, March 18, 2016 www.guardian.co.tt Guardian
A call for psychologists to be intro-
duced into primary schools and even
early childhood centres was one of the
main recommendations that arose out
of Wednesday s session of the Joint Select
Committee (JSC) meeting on school vio-
Explaining the rationale behind this sug-
gestion in his brief contribution, TTUTA s
third vice president, Martin Lum Kin, said
while more focus was now being placed
on identifying and addressing the issue at
the secondary school level, more needed
to be done at the lower levels.
He said early interventions could lead
to potential trouble-makers and disruptive
students being identified and treated,
thereby reducing the number of violent
incidents which could occur at the sec-
ondary school level.
Appearing before the committee, which
was chaired by Independent Senator Dr
Dhanayshar Mahabir, representatives of
the T&T Unified Teachers Association
(TTUTA), the National Parent Teacher
Association (NPTA) and the Anti-Bullying
Association of T&T, offered several sug-
gestions on how the incidents of school
violence and disruptive behaviour could
The committee included Public Utilities
Minister Ancil Antoine, Senators Hafeez
Ali and Khadijah Ameen and
Cumuto/Manzanilla MP Christine Newal-
Other recommendations included the
introduction of a Parent Teacher Associ-
TTUTA wants psychologists in primary schools
JSC meets on school violence...
ation at every school; continuous training and
retooling of teachers to equip them to deal ade-
quately with students; training for prefects and
school mentors to assist in the supervision of stu-
dents, remedial classes for students with special
needs and leadership modules which principals can
use to delegate responsibility.
Fielding questions from the committee, TTUTA
president Devanand Sinanan said a "radical over-
haul" of the education system was needed.
He said there were several issues affecting school
attendance on the part of both teachers and stu-
dents, which had led to high levels of absenteeism.
The committee was surprised to hear from
TTUTA that there was a problem regarding its
enforcement as the consequences defined were
sometimes "not enough to treat with the offences."
Revealing that principals were mandated to fur-
nish parents with a copy, Sinanan said there was
also a problem in that some parents refused to visit
the school to meet with officials if there was an
issue concerning their child, which led to the dis-
ruptive student remaining in the school system.
The committee was also horrified to hear from
NPTA president Zena Ramatali that some schools
absolutely refused to allow a Parent/Teacher Asso-
ciation (PTA) to be formed, as some teachers were
"adverse" to this arrangement.
Encouraging Ramatali to repeat that claim,
Mahabir voiced concern as he said that information
was contradictory to what was disclosed by officials
of the Ministry of Education two weeks ago at the
first session dealing with school violence.
Indicating that a structured PTA was necessary
and could assist in reducing such incidents in the
short term, both Ramatali and Sinanan agreed that
closer parental involvement could assist in greater
Challenged by Ameeen that it was a reality that
teacher absenteeism was high as there were some
who were afraid to attend classes due to student
intimidation, senior member of the Anti-Bullying
Association, Dr Alicia Martin, called for specialised
training for both teachers and school prefects, as
she explained that it was all about the environment
at home, school and community.
Acknowledging that problems often began at
home, Ali heard from Sinanan that school officials
were now working closely with the community
police in an attempt to get parents to visit schools
so issues could be discussed.
Proposing the introduction of an anti-bullying
club in schools, Martin explained it was one way
in which students and teachers could report threats
and accounts of violence among the school pop-
Asked if they agreed with the concept of a "boot
camp" for disruptive students, Sinanan said officials
had to determine the root cause of a student s mis-
behaviour, while the NPTA s first Vice President
Maureen Taylor-Ryan called for more guidance
officers and social workers to be introduced into
the school system.
Ramatali and Martin both agreed that deviant
students should be made to pay by performing
national or community service as rigid punishment
measures were not the answer.
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