The Government will spend $90.7 million over the next three years to recruit nearly 500 contract officers—including social workers, psychologists and counsellors—to deal with dysfunctional and behavioural issues among the student population, Education Minister Dr Tim Gopeesingh has said. Gopeesingh gave the information at yesterday’s post-Cabinet media conference after Cabinet approved the hiring of the officers for the education system’s student support services.
“This move will bring a great deal of benefit to the education system,” he said. “We’ll be able, with these human-resource personnel, to prevent some of the irregularities that occur in our schools and prevent some of the dysfunctional behaviour by counselling and early diagnosis and treatment of problems.”
Gopeesingh said $30 million would be spent over each of the three years to hire officers to try and deal with bullying, aberrant and dysfunctional behaviour among students. He said some of the dysfunctional behaviour was acquired and some congenital. He added that there had been 2,500-plus suspensions because of this last year and more than 200 of these had to have extended suspensions.
He said the ministry now had 90 guidance officer and 70 social workers’ posts, many of which aren’t filled, and a wide cadre of expertise was needed to deal with students’ issues. Contract posts being instituted would be advertised. He said he hoped they would be filled as quickly as possible. Gopeesingh said some posts like that of clinical psychologist had never been instituted at schools before, and he hoped there was enough expertise in T&T to fill the posts.
The ministry also hopes to establish five centres where troubled students can attend counselling sessions with parents before reporting back to classes. Gopeesingh also said he is examining the schools insurance system to see how the Government could compensate students who were injured. He said counsellors are attending to the needs of the schoolgirl who was knocked down recently and attention is also being given to a student who fell into a drain and is now a paraplegic.
• Co-ordination officers to diagnose different issues, including autism, dyslexia and other conditions
• Education specialists
• School psychologists
• Child psychologists
• Clinical psychologists
• Social workers
• Guidance counsellors
• Special education instructors
• Behavioural specialists
• Teacher education aides
• Interpreter assistance (for the hearing-impaired)
• Braille technicians