OFFICIAL WEBSITE OF THE UNITED NATIONAL CONGRESS, The Official Opposition In The Republic Of Trinidad And Tobago.

Tackling School Violence

We didn’t beg the private sector for help, says Kamla

OPPOSITION LEADER Kamla Persad-Bissessar said yesterday that her government never ‘begged’ the private sector for help in treating school violence, as there was a 24-point plan which was successful.

She criticised Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly for not addressing the issue of school violence during the debate of a private motion in the name of Opposition MP Anita Haynes, which asked the House to condemn the Government for its failure and mismanagement of the education system.

Persad-Bissessar said when parents send their children to school, they are not sure they are coming back home, or whether their child can return in a body bag.

She noted a newspaper report where the minister met with the business community and asked them to partner with the Education Ministry to help prevent young people from becoming criminals. Persad-Bissessar pointed out that the minister had said that between 2015 and 2019, 62% of those charged with murder were between the ages of 15 and 29, and 96% were males.

Gadsby-Dolly had also spoken about the influence of music-Trinibad- on children, she said.

Persad-Bissessar said telling people what to listen to is not the way to deal with a problem, but there must be action in addressing violence in the schools.

She noted Jamaican singer Bob Marley had used music as an art form to reflect what was happening in society and bring about peace.

She said there is no empirical data which suggests music influences young people to become criminals.

Persad-Bissessar lambasted the minister, noting that in 2022, in response to a similar motion against her in the Parliament, she made promises to address the issues that never materialised.

‘The reality is that this Government has failed miserably to implement any policy or programme to halt or reduce the worsening violence in our schools,’ she said.

Surgical approach

Persad-Bissessar said under her government, former education minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh took a ‘surgical’ approach to treat the sector with a 24-point plan based on recommendations from stakeholders and utilising old task force recommendations dating back to the 1980s.

She said they identified the most delinquent schools, which were less than 50 government schools, and set up a ‘full complement’ of student support services.

Persad-Bissessar said the minister used 2022-a year during the Covid pandemic-as the baseline to measure students’ performance going forward.

She challenged the minister to compare the results to data from 2014 when her government was in power, as she boasted that students’ performance was at a high level during her administration.

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