The proposal to ban the use of mobile telephones at schools is typical of the regressive Minister of Education Anthony Garcia, who remains ineffective and inept in the midst of growing classroom violence.
Mr. Garcia’s knee-jerk response contrasts with that of the People’s Partnership Administration, which had introduced a number of effective and successful measures to counter this troubling issue.
While Mr. Garcia is seeking to block photographic evidence of schools violence, the People’s Partnership Government had trained thousands of teachers in alternative dispute resolution and mediation, had more than doubled the Student Support Services programme and had expanded the complement of deans of discipline.
In addition, security officers and school safety officers were given hand-held scanners, while walk-in scanners and CCTV cameras were placed at high-risk institutions.
More than 170 school safety officers were employed and a full complement detailed at secondary schools.
There was a zero-tolerance approach to school bullying and a strong school-based management system was introduced.
Further, 82 local school boards were established at government primary and secondary schools, with active participation of the respective principal, Parent-Teacher Association and Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association.
The comprehensive approach included use of remedial and substitute teachers, motivational speakers at schools and the involvement of the Ministries of National Security, along with Gender Affairs, Youth and Child Development.
Career guidance teams were deployed at schools.
More than 20,000 parents participated in over 300 workshops in Parenting in Education.
Measures also included establishment of a parenting academy, launch of a national student hotline and reformatting of a national school Code of Conduct.
A Circle of Hope system was set up and students had a special weekly session to speak to teachers on issues of concern.
Mr. Garcia has scrapped or whittled down most of these wide-ranging and thorough measures, along with successful programmes which had achieved measurable results in literacy and numeracy.
Those measures had led to historic-high academic achievements.
The Minister’s proposition to ban the use of cell phones by students is a classic example of seeking to shoot the messenger instead of dealing with the urgent issue of worsening schools violence.
Mr. Garcia continues to display his rank incompetence, uselessness and folly amid critical and disturbing issues in the education sector.
His on-going retention as Minister of Education in the face of overwhelming evidence of ineptitude is a direct affront to students and other stakeholders and a blow to the goal of making Trinidad and Tobago a modern and competitive learning society.
DR. TIM GOPEESINGH,
MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT FOR CARONI EAST
& FORMER MINISTER OF EDUCATION