(Trinidad Guardian) A Siparia secondary school is in crisis after a series of violent episodes among students, teachers in fear for their lives and parents removing their children — and even an allegation of a teacher impregnating a student.
The situation has now led to an emergency meeting among stakeholders to try to bring some order to the troubled high school.
In an exclusive interview with Guardian Media, the mother of the pregnant student said her daughter was raped and was being counselled by the teacher who is being accused of fathering the child.
The mother said she has no problem doing a paternity test once the child is born next week.
She said her daughter was raped when she was 14 and the teacher was the one who consoled her when she began harming herself with a blade.
The mother said her daughter became sexually involved with another student and got pregnant on August 28.
Saying she was appalled that the Ministry of Education had not investigated rampant sexual rendezvous at the school’s compound and accused officials of covering up sex acts and violence in the classroom.
Before her daughter became pregnant, she claimed a male student threw her daughter down a flight of stairs after she accidentally dropped some food on his shirt. The mother said, “Nothing came out of it.”
The distraught parent said she has kept her pregnant daughter away from school over the past six months because of the rumours about her and the male teacher.
“My daughter is going through a nightmare. I am hoping that the girl will be able to write her Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) examination in June after she has the baby,” she added.
The Ministry source confirmed that investigations were ongoing into sexual abuse and violence among students.
The latest violent incident occurred around noon last Friday and ended with one student being knocked almost unconscious.
There are 80 teachers at the school and over 500 pupils, according to school officials. A decade ago, there were 1,500 pupils enrolled but because of frequent fights, many parents opted to transfer their children.
In a video shared with Guardian Media, students were seen throwing dustbins and chairs at each other. In the video, two Form One girls scuffled with each other and one was seen slamming the other’s head against a wall.
Teachers are now so fearful of staying in the classroom unless there is police on the compound.
When Guardian Media visited the school yesterday, an emergency meeting was in session with safety officers, teachers, senior administrators and officials of the Ministry of Education.
Through the school fence, students were seen swinging from the staircase. At Block E, the main teaching block, students could be heard shouting obscenities. This was followed by the sound of screams and what appeared to be the smashing of furniture. A parent who led her son hurriedly out of the compound said she was fed up of the indiscipline.
“Right now my son’s back is still blue-black from the licks he got. They did not even inform me that my son was beaten. The violence is spreading to everyone,” she said. She showed a video of her child who was being beaten by students with a piece of wood in an open field.
While she spoke, her son demanded that she stop the interview.
Keisha Taylor whose son was stabbed with a dagger stashed in the ceiling of the classroom last March said the situation so bad that many students were using their “free time” to have sex.
“There is no supervision in the school. The teachers cannot handle the situation at all. My son was chopped and for three weeks he was out of school. The attacker is still in school,” Taylor said.
A source said students throw knives and cutlasses over the school’s fence and then collect it to attack and threaten each other.
“They hide the weapons in the bushes. Marijuana is sold on the compound regularly. The teachers are powerless,” he added.
Guardian Media was also told that teachers sign the attendance register and often then leave early every Friday.
Minister: School has been on my radar
Contacted for comment, Minister in the Ministry of Education Dr Lovell Francis said the school has been on his radar for a while.
“We will confer with the School Supervisors and seek to make an intervention in this school these are issues of leadership and management at the school level. Each school has a management structure that deals with issues of discipline and having a school environment conducive to teaching in learning. Where lapses occur or shortcomings are identified we work with our Curriculum Officers and School Supervisors to put measures in place to strengthen the existing structures. This school has been on my radar for a little while so it will be an area of specific focus,” Francis said.
President of the T&T Unified Teachers Association Lynsley Doodhai could not be reached for comment and did not respond to WhatsApp messages.
Last week, Teaching Service Commission chairman Dr Fazal Ali said out of 33 complaints of sexual harassment forwarded against teachers, no one has been found guilty.
He said the TSC cannot compel a student who makes sexual harassment charges against a teacher to be crossed-examined by a tribunal as many parents do not allow their children to relive the traumatic experience.